The Union Park Neighborhood Association (UPNA) held its general meeting on March 31 via Zoom, where the major topic of conversation was construction permitting and rodents with Flavio Daveiga of the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD). Neighbors also heard from South End Business Alliance (SEBA) president Elizabeth Beutel about what’s been going on with businesses in the neighborhood.
Flavio Daveiga, Director of Constituent Services for ISD, first spoke about construction permitting. He said that there are often several projects happening at the same time, with many being granted permits to work on the weekend or after hours during the week.
“When a permit is issued through ISD, we have to get [the Environment department] involved to get the rodent control underway before we issue the permit, but when public works issues their permit we don’t necessarily have a rodent control plan in place,” he said, so that needs to be better coordinated with public works moving forward.
He also said that permits for after hours and weekend work are issued on a weekly basis, and that in the future, ISD will not allow so many of them at the same time and are “only going to issue the ones that are really necessary.”
Anne Sheridan, a resident on Union Park, said that there are “four gut rehabs” happening all in the same vicinity near her home and the weekend work is causing noise disruption.
“Union Square has been one of our areas where we get a lot of complaints,” Daveiga said, adding that much of the thought process behind the weekend work is to “expedite the job” so workers are not spending extended periods of time in the neighborhood.
Daveiga added that if there are any complaints, especially with weekend work happening without a permit, residents can reach out to ISD as a manager is on call 24/7. The complaint can also be reported to 311, he added.
The conversation then shifted to the rodent problem in the neighborhood, and UPNA president Abigail Cohen said that “it’s been escalating. There are certain areas of our neighborhood that seem to be seeing it a little bit more.”
She said she had recently met with representatives from Villa Victoria as well as a manager from Vejigantes Restaurant, who said that they are working on getting new dumpsters that do not have holes, and are also in touch with their trash company to see if a third trash removal day can be arranged from the back alley.
“They are also going to be in touch with the company they work with for rodent remediation,” she said, to see if anything else can be done.
“That specific area has always been a specific problem for his crew,” Daveiga said of ISD Assistant Commissioner Leo Boucher. He also said on behalf of Boucher that more “manpower” will be directed towards that area, as well as better coordination with public works and the large amount of construction happening “to make sure that there’s pre-bating in a trap set prior allowing any digging…”
He also said that a team will be distributing flyers to residents and business owners outlining proper trash disposal, as improper trash disposal is also contributing to the rodent problem.
Several residents shared their personal experiences with rodents, saying that they have seen them running from the trash on the street into the back alleys, and one person even mentioned they saw a 14 inch dead rat. Another, who has moved to various cities over the years and is now back in the South End, said that the issue with trash and rodents is even worse than it was when she left the city 10 years ago.
Daveiga encouraged residents to reach out to him with concerns and to set up a walk-through of the neighborhood that could be done at a time most convenient for residents with his and Boucher’s teams.
Councilor Ed Flynn said that he would like to go on the walkthrough as well.
“As we approach budget season, this is something I will advocate for the South End,” he said, “more pest control outreach.” He said that this is a “critical issue,” and that if not resolved, residents might leave the city.
Aside from coordinating the walk-through, Daveiga said that he will be able to share a plan for the permitting process moving forward as well.
Elizabeth Beutel, president of SEBA, explained that SEBA is a “business alliance organization” that “focuses on businesses within the four walls of the South End.”
It consists of a volunteer board that works to provide resources to businesses in the neighborhood. She said that over the pas year, SEBA has had a “lot of PPP and grant conversations,” and has also conducted analytics on the neighborhood.
While many businesses have shuttered due to the pandemic, “we’ve actually gained businesses in the South End,” she said, and SEBA has “organized customer strolls” to bring folks into the neighborhood to patronize the local businesses.
She said that “the South End is really underrepresented from a tourism perspective. We need people to be spending money here.”
For more information on SEBA and its businesses and upcoming events, visit sebaboston.com.
Graffiti was also a topic of conversation at the meeting, though Cohen said that the first order of business should be getting the rodent population under control.
She did, however, say that graffiti is “definitely something on our list to work on.”
South End resident Sheila Grove said, “You can’t really put graffiti on hold, because graffiti breeds graffiti.” She said that the “city used to be really good about it…but they don’t seem to be coming out. I think it would be really worthwhile that if the city can’t do it, that Union Park should take some money out to pay for it.”
Reisdent Christine Parker agreed with Grove, saying that the issue “only gets worse as these individuals deem it’s acceptable because no one is erasing it.” She said that graffiti remover can be purchased at Home Depot, along with a bucket for water and a wire brush, and “we can do it ourselves,” she said.
Parker also suggested that graffiti can also be part of the rodent tour with ISD.
Councilor Ed Flynn advised residents to report graffiti to 311, as well as reach out to his office, and then he can follow up with the Mayor’s office.
“It’s budget season now,” Flynn said, adding that it’s “important to weigh in with elected officials about what is important to you.”