After days of parking-ban confusion and no sign of city plow trucks in Wooster Square, Bill Iovanne decided to take matters into his own hands—by hiring a private crew to work through the night to dig out the neighborhood.
From 6 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday, drivers of four payloaders, two bucket-loaders, a Bobcat tractor, and several dump trucks worked to clear streets around Wooster Square.
That wasn’t city equipment, and it wasn’t public works staff manning it. The city streets were cleared by employees of a North Haven landscaping company, hired by Iovanne, who runs his family’s funeral home in Wooster Square.
Iovanne (pictured on a newly cleared Wooster Place) said that the city has done a good job with snow-clearing, but that he could see that Wooster Square needed more help.
“It’s about being a good neighbor,” he said. He said he has “no idea” how much the late-night snow-clearing will cost him.
“How can we thank them?” said Peter Webster, head of the Wooster Square block watch. “It’s impossible.” He said he was amazed by the Iovanne family’s generosity.
Neighbors have been confused and annoyed by the city’s arcane, shifting towing and plowing plans over the past week, Webster said. He argued that if the city hadn’t been so inept, Iovanne wouldn’t have had to clear the streets out of his own pocket.
Doug Arndt, the public works director, said the city has been working as hard as it can to clear city streets.
The city is in the midst of a week-long snow removal operation, part of an effort to dig out after a number of storms that hit town in rapid succession in the last couple of weeks. The city neglected to enforce residential parking bans during the storms, leading to narrow, snow-clogged streets that the city is now trying to make passable.
The city targeted some 39 narrow streets citywide for snow removal this week, many of which are in Wooster Square. Webster (pictured) said neighbors had been eagerly waiting for the plows to arrive this week in Wooster Square, without being sure when it would happen.
“The problem was a lot of the information they sent out was contradictory,” he said.
Webster said he had been calling the city trying to figure out when plows would come, without success. Finally on Tuesday evening, city cars arrived in Wooster Square to broadcast a garbled message by loudspeaker: Plowing tomorrow; move your cars.
But on Wednesday morning, no plows arrived. “People were standing in the street asking where the plows are,” Webster said.
As the day wore on, with no sign of plows, Iovanne finally decided to take action. He said he called the mayor’s office at about 3 or 4 p.m. to let the city know he was hiring private contractors to clear the streets. A couple hours later, equipment and workers from Mineri Landscaping began work on Wooster Place.
In addition to Wooster Place, Mineri cleared snow from Wooster, Chapel, Greene and Academy streets. Mineri also cleared sidewalks. Iovanne said workers would return Thursday to clear more of Wooster and Chapel streets.
The city allowed Mineri to dump snow on Marginal Drive. Traffic enforcement had some cars ticketed and towed to make way for the work; Iovanne said he’d been tried to avoid that.
Iovanne said he had been thinking for a couple of days about hiring the company, which clears the funeral home’s parking lot, to clear the streets. He watched people to struggle to maneuver through the streets; a fire truck hadn’t been able to get down Wooster Street.
“It’s just that this is bigger than anybody could have imagined,” Iovanne said. The city has done a good job, he said. “At some point, you’ve got to pitch in.”
“If you see your neighbor shoveling, you go help out,” he said. “This is more than I could handle with a shovel.”
“It’s pretty generous,” said Adam Brouillard, walking his dog in Wooster Square Thursday. The city is just “overwhelmed” by the snow, he said.
“That’s awesome of him,” neighbor Claire Kelly (pictured) said of Iovanne’s plow-hire. “I’m glad someone’s taking responsibility.”
“He shouldn’t have had to do that. We pay high taxes,” said a woman walking a dog that was wearing an insulated coat.
“I noticed I could park today. I was amazed,” said Pam Ellman, visiting the neighborhood from Guilford. “It’s great for everybody. I appreciate it.”