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Space saver graveyard forms in Boston after latest storm

Boston policy forbids space savers unless the city calls a snow emergency

Chairs, stools, buckets, laundry baskets, children’s toys, a tricycle, a propane tank, a TV and lots and lots of cones.

Those were just some of the bounty collected by Boston’s Department of Public Works over the past two days as this latest snow storm hit the city – bringing out the controversial yet time-honored tradition of saving parking spaces with assorted objects.

The city forbids the use of space-savers unless the Mayor’s Office calls a snow emergency. City policy allows the use of space savers for 48-hours after the emergency declaration is lifted. During the weekend’s storm, Mayor Marty Walsh made no such call. And so crews were out Sunday and Monday rounding up the wintertime contraband.

A few hundred pieces were stacked in a pile at the DPW yard on Frontage Road in South Boston on Monday – a colorful mélange of plastic, metal and wood, all of it scooped off of Boston curbs and hauled away in city vehicles.

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City spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin told Metro in an email that 10 vehicles, in addition to residential trash trucks, were dispatched to collect the items.

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Walsh made a point of addressing the space-saver issue in a news conference Sunday evening.

“If you put a space-saver out there, public works will come and take it,” Walsh said.

The city advises residents to report cases of illegal space-savers via the 311 phone service or smartphone app.

Space-savers famously have sparked feuds among neighbors in the city. It’s not uncommon to hear about slashed tires and broken windshields for those who don’t abide the unwritten rule about honoring spaces Bostonians shovel and then claim as their own.

Earlier this year, police responded to a scuffle in Dorchester that resulted in one man being shot – reportedly the result of a dispute over a space.

A Boston Police spokeswoman told Metro on Monday the department did not receive any reports of parking-related violence or vandalism during this weekend’s storm.

“The police department appreciates understanding and cooperation from the community in our efforts to maintain the peace and keep the city safe during snow emergencies,” spokeswoman Myeshia Henderson said.

Some this year have taken to the Internet to complain about those claiming spaces when there was not nearly enough white stuff to justify them – or in some cases claiming spots without actually shoveling them out.

Others have had fun with Boston’s obsession with space-savers.

"The PWD District 5 (South Boston) Foreman reports having to remove a life sizecardboard cut out of the wrestler 'TheRock,'" McGilpin, the city spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

One person tweeted a photo of a spot saved with a cutout of Napoleon, the French general, standing guard over their spot.

Last month, Boston officials used a variation of the popular “Be Like Bill” meme to remind residents about the 48-hour policy.

It reads: “This is Sebastian. Sebastian is a space saver. Sebastian is only used during a declared snow emergency in Boston. Sebastian goes away 48 hours after a snow emergency is over. Be like Sebastian.”

RELATED: Flashback: An ode to the late Seaport snow farm

Another space saver popped up on Twitter, showing a poster of Rob Gronkowski holding a Dunkin’ Donuts “Big N’ Toasted.”

Meanwhile, some have questioned the policy’s effectiveness.

Boston Globe columnist Dante Ramos this week argued that the city should do away with space savers altogether, rather than sometimes allowing them and sometimes not.

“Here’s a better rule that can’t be misunderstood: Put away those lawn chairs, because public streets should be first-come, first-served,” Ramos wrote.
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