They are the contentious emblems of a Boston winter: a chair, trash can, or cone in the middle of a freshly shoveled-out parking spot.
Space savers. They have prompted slashed tires and fisticuffs in Brighton, threatening notes in East Boston, smashed windows in Dorchester, poems in South Boston, and exasperation all over the city. Typically, contention sparks when someone removes a space saver from a spot, attracting the ire of whoever took the time to shovel out the space.
The city rules are short and straightforward: residents can only use a space saver when the city has declared an official snow emergency, as Mayor Michelle Wu did on Monday. Additionally, residents have 48 hours to use a space saver after the city ends the snow emergency. After that, they must remove it from the street.
Lastly, space savers are banned in the neighborhoods of Bay Village and the South End.
The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for central, eastern, northeastern, western Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island. The storm’s path was expected to drop the heaviest snowfall on southeastern Massachusetts, while the Boston area could get at least 6 inches.
In past years, some residents have taken innovative approaches to mark their shoveled-out territory for their vehicles. A toy basketball hoop, milk crates, a car battery, even a pressure cooker. All have been used to convey that a specific parking space is spoken for.
On Monday, Wu addressed questions about space savers during a press avail ahead of the storm.
“We recognize that it is part public safety, part marking hard work, part performance art, so anything goes for 48 hours,” she said.
After that window, she said garbage trucks would be picking up the various markers “so we can actually get to the curb.”
But in years past, some residents have treated the 48-hour window as a mere suggestion. Many of the space saver complaints made to the city’s 311 system after previous storms have dealt with objects that are still out on the street saving a spot after that time period is over.
Wu also noted the carveout bans in the South End and Bay Village, saying the former neighborhood had barred the practice years ago after residents “were seeing some aggression” over the space savers.