When Small Alleys Cause Big Headaches

Getting the City of Boston to pick up the tab for maintenance and repair of certain alleyways has proved frustrating for residents of the city's South End, due to high costs and restrictions associated with transferring ownership rights to the city.

The extensive system of alleyways that weaves through Boston's South End provides a perfect study of the contrasts between private and public ownership of shared space. While certain segments of the alleys have been transferred into the city government's hands by real estate transactions brokered many years ago, others have remained the responsibility of the property owners that own abutting land. The latter situation has proved to be extremely costly for the property owners, and has thus resulted in many alleys falling into a state of disrepair.

Many neighborhood residents who own properties that abut the hidden thoroughfares want the city to maintain and repair their alleys, expressing frustration that they have all the obligations and few of the privileges associated with private ownership of the space. An array of regulations and requirements have caused potential cost estimations to skyrocket, making city ownership of many alleys even less of a possibility in these lean economic times.

"Michael Lloyd, of the Concord Square Neighborhood Association, says residents pay for basic repairs in private alleys."

" 'There are no benefits, in my estimation,' Lloyd said. 'We'd have the city take over ours in a heartbeat, if not for the cost.' "

Full Story: On the surface, not all alleys are treated the same

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