By Seth Daniel
Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials took a more collaborative and positive approach in dealing with residents about the Edwards Middle School parking lot in a meeting on Monday night, Dec. 19, and believe they may have carved out a solution that works for everyone.
After a contentious meeting on Oct. 27 after numerous cars were towed prior to any community meeting on the new towing policy, residents and school officials butted heads over the use of the lot – which has historically been open to residents for parking during off-hours via an unwritten agreement between the school and neighbors who are hamstrung or parking.
The contention was fueled by suspicions and frustrations at the school level, which led to a vast misunderstanding of the community and those who were seeking answers for having their cars towed to East Boston.
All of that had completely changed on Monday, as school officials welcomed residents and led off with an apology.
“I want to apologize for everything that went wrong in the lead up to that (Oct. 27) meeting,” said John Hanlon, director of facilities for BPS. “It wasn’t a very positive meeting.”
However, since that time, Hanlon said a lot of positive work has been happening via a collaboration between four City department and residents. That collaboration has yielded a new 24/7 resident only parking area on the west side of the Main Street lot – to be enforced by ticketing and towing by Boston Transportation. It has also brought about more parking spaces in the back lot – where residents and non-residents can park between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is also now additional parking on the Walker Street side of the building, also only between the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Another section of the Main Street lot, on the east side, will be available for residents and non-residents from the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Hanlon cautioned that anyone who parked in the areas restricted to 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. outside of those hours would be subject to towing if they are disrupting the school operations.
He also stressed that anyone parking in the resident-only portion of the lot who doesn’t have a City-issued resident sticker will be subject to ticketing and towing by BTD.
BTD officials at the meeting said they would always ticket first, but would consider towing if there becomes an issue.
Another point to be noted was that all cars must move out of all lots when any amount of snow accumulates – even small accumulations. Hanlon said they must plow the lots when there is snowfall and that means all parts of the lot – including the resident-only portion – will be subject to towing for the plows to operate.
He also said it is not likely that the towing program will run through the summer, as BPS officials originally took a stand that they would not allow residents to park during the summer when school is not in session.
He said if there are no summer programs in place, and if it’s not disrupting school operations, they would be allowing residents to park there. He assured everyone that if that changes – if residents were no longer allowed to park freely during the summer – that there would be clear communication of that policy to neighbors.
“If we have summer program and need the spaces, we’ll let the community know that,” he said.
Tandem parking will also be allowed in the resident-only portion of the Main Street lot as has occurred historically. However, he said parking on the sidewalk or driving on the sidewalk would not be acceptable and asked that resident coordinate with one another to prevent that dangerous situation.
The lot is owned by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), but Hanlon said the day-to-day care and custody has been given to BPS.
“I’m really hopeful this arrangement works well and we don’t have to do much,” Hanlon said.