Citizens Speak Out

Street cleaning in Boston is a farce and only serves as a revenue enhancement scheme. There is not enough street parking to justify charging $20 every week.

Neighborhood: Back Bay, Rosemary S.

I am just writing about my experience last week with rats. I was walking along kenmore by the Hotel Buckminister around midnight on Sunday night and when I was about 15 feet away from a vent, I must have literally seen 20 rats run out of the vent heading towards the garbage bags that were along the sidewalk. I stood there and literally froze due to the shock of how big the rats were and the amount of rats that ran out.......and that the fact there would be rats just running around the street like that. I ran past the rats hoping to avoid encountering any more...but as I ran by there were about 3 more that ran out that made me scream and run into the building.


I just wanted to say thanks for the great comments at last nights meeting regarding how to fight the city rats. I moved into an alley-facing apartment this year. While my cat loves watching the rats scurry around the dumpsters at night, it sickens me. I was also shocked at how bad the trash problem became on Sept. 1st during the student-tenant version of musical chairs. Thanks to your hard work, I now know who to call at City Hall to battle both problems. Thanks again.

Scott Hoge, Fenway

Dear NAG,

I have noticed more rats than usual. This may be due to the many construction projects on my block. My alley, Public Alley 429, bordered by Mass. Ave, Hereford St., Marlborough St., and Comm. Ave., has many traps, but do they ever re-bait them? I have yet to see any inspectional service types ticketing the owners that leave trash out. Who do I call when neighbors refuse to put their trash out during the prescribed time period?

Sean McNally, Back Bay


Good morning,

My name is Gary Dwyer and I live on St. Botolph Street.  I have drafted a petition to Mayor Menino, Councilors Keane and Kelley, and the four Councilors At Large for the City of Boston, relating to much needed public safety and public works improvements in the St. Botolph Street Neighborhood.

Although not initiated under the authority of the St. Botolph Street Citizens Committee, it has been supported by the leadership of the organization.  Already we have had over 140 people sign the petition and expect many more over the next few weeks to do so.

The petition demands that action be taken on six key points:

1 - Replacing trees along the street which were missing prior to or were damaged during the April 1, 1997 snow storm.     

2 - The towing of illegally parked vehicles for scheduled street cleaning *.     

3 - The development of a plan and timetable to replace the existing concrete sidewalks for St. Botolph Street and the adjoining streets between West Newton and Massachusetts Avenue with brick sidewalks and acorn lamps.  (The other half of St. Botolph Street, between Harcourt and West Newton, have had these for over 7 years!)     

4 - Repainting the center line and cross walks along St. Botolph Street.     

5 - Installation of city maintained trash receptacles near commercial operations, i.e.:  Christy's Market.     

6 - Installation of a speed control or awareness device along St.Botolph Street, coupled with more intensive traffic and speed control by the Boston Police Department.     

(* - I do not understand why City Hall continually bows to the complaints of one or two people and overlooks the concerns of the vast majority of citizens who support the towing of cars for street cleaning.  For example, on Saturday, May 16 the St. Botolph Street Spring Clean Up was held.  It was well supported by all city departments, with the exception of the Transportation Department who refused to tow cars for the cleaning because they received two, yes that is right two, complaints from people who felt inconvenienced.  So because two people were lazy or too cheap to garage their cars, the neighborhood was not cleaned as well as it could have been and many volunteers left feeling demoralized.  (P.S.  the two complainers were anonymous))     

Executive Cleaners, at the corner of St. Botolph St. and West Newton, has been very helpful in allowing me to place petitions on the bulletin board and collect signatures.  I plan to keep the clipboard and petitions there thru the first week in June, so please stop by and sign.     

Additionally, I plan to have petitions circulating during the St. Botolph Street Fair, scheduled for Saturday May 30.     

Please spread the word as much as possible that these petitions are available to all citizens of Boston to sign.  Thanks for your help.

G.Dwyer, Back Bay


Every night i see rats on norway street, by the corner of the racquet club and the alley that leads into the 100 norway st. parking lot.    I also see rats regularly jumping into, and out of holes, at the base of the rose bushes behind the airconditioners of the 100 norway st building.  Please help, they are a real health hazard!

R Mckenna, Fenway


Oh, I've seen rats around here.  I'm a student at Emerson College, residing at 80 Boylston Street.  On nice nights, I'll cross the street in front of the building and sit on the low wall by from the Boylston Inbound T stop.  On any given night, I'll see at least 3 or 4 rats within a 15 minute period.  I know the Common is right there, but these rats are the size of kittens.  I've seen them scurrying about on Beacon Hill, and not on trash day, and I even heard a story from a classmate who resides at 6 Arlington St., who said she was sitting outside the building having a cigarette, and a rat RAN OVER HER FOOT! On a somewhat comical note, a friend has just reminded me of an instance where we were walking down the path on the Esplanade right along the Charles River. We saw something moving in the river, and then whatever it was went up on shore.  It was a rat swimming UPSTREAM in the Charles!  How's that for diseased??

Zacque/Back Bay

The Christian Science Center is one of my favorite places to go in the summer.  The tall building at one end and the expansive reflection pool create a most pleasant breeze.  On the evening of May 21, 1998, I took a friend over there to walk around.  There were very few people about as it was rather late, and we were walking slowly around the pool.  I don't remember the conversation, but I do remember seeing something sniffling around the edge of the pool.  At first I thought it was a cat because it was so big:  I'm talking at least 2 feet long from nose to tail.  Then I realized it was a rat.  It was a rat bigger than any cat I've ever owned. It must have weighed at least 16 pounds.

I hate rats.

I'm not scared of them, I just hate them.  To me they are a signal - a symptom, if you will - of a much larger problem.  A disease.  I mean, how can a rat survive long enough to get THAT big without having plenty of food and not very much in the way of predators (AKA MAN).  What signal did this behemoth give my friend?  That I lived in a high priced neighborhood (Back Bay, to be precise) which didn't have the means or desire to get rid of a very large problem.  And once again I reiterate:  LARGE PROBLEM.  I'm glad I don't have a child in Boston because I would NEVER let them out of my house in the evenings for fear that they would be carried off into the night!

And I actually have another tale to tell.  I have a friend who lives on the last block of Commonwealth Avenue before Charlesgate.  Her building has trash cans out back in an alley, and the residents of her building are allowed to place their trash out there any time of the week they want. That's nice for the residents of the building, but they have forgotten how nice it is for the OTHER residents, the ones who live IN the alley.  We walked back there one afternoon, and I mean in broad daylight, and we saw at least 5 rats nosing their way around the trash containers.  And I was instructed by my friend not to walk on the cement around the trash cans because the rats have burrowed under it so extensively that it would collapse under my weight.  And this is on Commonwealth Avenue!  One of the most prestigious streets in Boston!

What kind of city/sanitation department/trash collection would allow this to get so out of hand?  I'm very disturbed by this.  What do my taxes go toward if not to maintain the standard of living I deem fit?  And let me assure you, I DO NOT DEEM THIS FIT.  I'm talking about disease-carrying animals here that have obviously been left to run rampant throughout the Back Bay (And I can only imagine where else) while the mayor extols the virtues of placing disgusting plastic toilets around the city for our tourist population.  What about the RESIDENTS!  Let me see, tasteless plastic toilets littering my city or putting that money toward getting rid of rats...  No contest.  I know the tourist trade in Boston is our main "export", but how many people are going to want to come visit a city that is overrun with vermin of the most revolting order?  NONE, that's how many.

I'm tired of walking home at night and having rats run over my feet.  I'm tired of having to walk down the sidewalk singing out loud so the rats stay hidden.  Why can't I just walk down the street, listen to the hum of traffic, and know that I don't have to watch my footing?  Is that too much to ask from a city that proclaims its intellectualism and worldliness and cleanliness?  I thought this was a "walker's town".  I certainly don't want to walk around that much anymore.

Michael Goodwin
Marlborough Street
Back Bay, Boston

I hear rats scampering around in the walls and ceiling of my Beacon Hill apartment almost every night.  I have lived here 4 years and during that time my dog has caught/killed 3 baby rats that came out during the night.

M.Doggrell/Beacon Hill


Yes, we need more litter baskets on the Hill.  We could use more on the Esplanade in the winter too. 

M.Doggrell/Beacon Hill


Dear Nagger:

Yes, the trash bags in my neighborhood are a problem.  They provide 'instant' access for the neighborhood rodents.  I've sighted nearly a dozen rats in the 2 years that I've lived on the hill, and feel the problem would be alieviated if there were proper containers. Not to mention the asthetic concern of torn open trash bags, and subsequent trash laying around the sidewalks and curb areas due to our other 'neighborhood rodents' --- the ones using grocery carts to gather recycling.  It is too much of us to ask the garbage men to pick up scattered trash due to the tearing of these bags due to rats, rodents, or recyclers.

Please help!
arcocean/Beacon Hill
syoung/Beacon Hill


I agree.  There are too many rats roaming through our neighborhoods.  The city should enforce its laws regarding trash SANTO227/Fenwey


Yes, we need more litter baskets.  I work in the downtown area and sometimes can literally walk for blocks before I see a trash basket!

I believe it should be a city law that every commercial establishment have a least one litter basket in front of it.  The establishment would be responsible for emptying the basket.



Sorry, I forgot to respond to these questions:

1. Would you be in favor of more litter baskets on our streets?
Yes. Yes Yes.
2. Do you consider Boston streets to be clean?
No, I think in general Boston is filthy.  There are too few litter baskets in most areas. Areas such as Kenmore whether or not there is a game are especially dirty. 
3. Do you think the fines mentioned are steep enough?
No, I believe the fines should be steeper. 4. In the past month how many times have you walked around Boston? I walk through the city every day.



After reading all those complaints about rats, I have no intension of ever visiting Boston. The only problem anyone around here has is a roach or two. However, if you keep your home clean and sprayed this is a problem you will never encounter. I would hate to live like those people. I'm going to call my council member today and thank him for this wonderful city of ours. It's clean down here!

PS: I found you website very informative.

Andrew Navarro Saldana, Austin Texas


This letter hopes to put a face on a serious health problem in Boston that goes unchecked and unmonitored by officials and city leaders who continue to turn a blind eye to the problems in our neighborhoods. The issue I am addressing is the infestation of rats that plague the streets and alleyways of the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods, especially the areas closest to Mass Ave. I live a few blocks from Mass. Ave on Rutland Square and I often see rats streaking about the streets and alleyways as I walk along.

Early this spring, a friend from Cambridge and I were walking with my dog along Upton Street in the South End on a warm Sunday. My friend and I were engaged in deep conversation when suddenly, Kate, my excited Scotty, dashed toward an alleyway, jerking the leash right from my hand. I looked toward the direction where she was running to see a large rat lumbering by a dumpster that had rubbish and food strewn around it's front entry. The rat made a feeble attempt to get away, but to our horror, Katie grabbed the vile scavenger in her teeth and vigorously shook the animal as it squirmed to get free. My friend from Cambridge noted that she had never seen a rat on her city streets.

I quickly regained control of the leash and was able to get Kate away from the rat. As we walked toward our home, I began to worry that the rat's lethargic behavior might be indicative of a disease or sickness. I watched Katie for the night and all seemed well. The following evening, Katie became very sick and repeatedly vomited. Luckily, I was able to nurse her back to health, but the bitter taste of injustice lingers.

I think of my upstairs neighbors, a family with young children who like to play outside. I think of my other neighbors of mixed incomes, many, including myself that lack healthcare coverage. While the prospect of individual diseased rats infecting my fellow citizens is frightening, it is terrifying to consider what might happen should this large colony of vermin become plagued in mass. Those of us who lack the basic protection of healthcare would be devastated. We pay more taxes to support city services than most other cities, yet we lack even the basic services to ensure our public health safety. It is imperative that leaders in this community take a stand for the safety, health and well being of the people of this city. For city services to continue business as usual in a city with such great needs is totally unacceptable, and it is unconscionable for city officials and state leaders to continue to turn a blind eye to health problems that professionals have advised them to address. 

Goodseed/South End


Full Name: Claudia Swan
Neighborhood: South end
Complaints Comments: General dirty streets, lack of trash receptacles - virtually none on main streets - Tremont, Columbus and Shawmut.  No enforcement of laws re trash and dog poop clean-up by owners of pets.  General lack of concern for how dirty streets affect neighbors.
Site Comments: Great idea, hope the message gets thru to others and not just to the converted!

Claudia Swan,South End


It was most interesting to meet you and hear your ideas at the CRTD meeting at St. Ceclia's on Monday night.  I checked out your Web page as you suggested -- a very cool way to increase communication between elected officials and the public!  Congrats.

Best of luck in your work.