It’s that time of the year again, where college students flock back to Boston to begin their fall semesters. For many year-round residents of the city, Sept. 1 is a dreaded day of traffic congestion and piles of trash along the street. The changing over of leases means a sea of couches, tables, mattresses, appliances, and cardboard left on the side of the road. Called “Allston Christmas” in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston, this time of year is a joy for those looking for free household items, but a bane for those who do not wish to participate—some even leave town for the weekend to avoid the chaos and congestion.
However, the city, along with colleges and universities, say they strive to make the transition as smooth as possible both for the students and the current residents. John Tobin, Vice President for City and Community Affairs at Northeastern University, said this is not his first rodeo. This year will be his 10th move-in with Northeastern, and he said that in addition to regular trash service provided by the city, Northeastern hires several additional trucks to go out and remove trash from the Fenway, Mission Hill, and Roxbury neighborhoods, where there are a high concentration of student apartments.
“It keeps these neighborhoods neat and orderly and also removes impediments from people who are trying to move stuff out or move stuff in,” he said. Last year, he said about 25 tons of trash were removed by the contractors hired by the university. “Our trucks are going there all weekend until it’s gone,” Tobin said. This is part of a coordinated move-in effort led by Northeastern, Tobin said, that includes one-hour parking passes for vehicles moving items in, as well as letters sent to the neighbors to inform them of what the process will be.
The system has been tweaked over the years as the team learns from each previous year, and Tobin said there is “much better coordination now,” but there are always outside factors, such as a Red Sox game, concerts, and the weather to consider during move-in weekend.
This year, while the Red Sox won’t be playing at Fenway Park, there will be the Zac Brown Band concerts on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, which are expected to draw in 35,000 people each night.
Northeastern’s move-in process includes marking arrival time, street address, etc. for cars moving things into student apartments. Northeastern coordinates with a lot of the landlords in the area, so they will also mark down whether or not a vehicle is a cleaning service going in to clean an apartment before it is turned over to the next set of students, Tobin said.
The trash trucks will be coming through the neighborhood throughout the process to keep trash piles at bay. But some Fenway residents, like Maria Rodriguez, said they don’t mind the trash and congestion. “It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “The management around here since they rent to students, they are on top of them all the time, so they do pick up quickly. But it’s only for a weekend, so it doesn’t really matter.”
Rodriguez said she even looks forward to all of the students’ leftover belongings, as she’s found items in the past that she can use. One year, she picked up a fairly new Crock Pot for her friend, and this year, she’s on the hunt for a new vacuum cleaner. She warns that upholstered furniture and mattresses should be avoided because of the possibility of bed bugs. She said she sees benefits to this crazy weekend and looks on the bright side—“whatever they throw away, somebody else picks up,” she said.
Richard Giordano of the Fenway CDC agreed with Rodriguez that trash seem to get cleaned up quickly and efficiently in the Fenway. “Now, when I walk around, I keep my eyes open just in case,” he said. He said he even found useful bike parts one year. It seems to be a general consensus that if the trash is going to be there, even for a limited time, at least some of it can go to a new home during this inevitable transition period in the city. As they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.