"A Beacon Hill residents association has sued the city of Boston to stop the installation of sidewalk ramps for the disabled the civic group says would spoil the character of the historic neighborhood."
The Beacon Hill Civic Association has taken action against the installation of concrete and plastic sidewalks ramps to accommodate the needs of Boston's disabled. Recently, the Civic group filed a lawsuit against the City for violating state law and altering the streetscape of the famous historic district.
At the outset, one may assume that the Beacon Hill resident's insensitivity to the disabled is almost pompous. But by acknowledging both sides of the conflict, a much deeper regard for the city of Boston emerges.
The Civic group's pressure on City officials to honor architecture of the Colonial-era -- red brick sidewalks -- is not unnecessary quipping from a relatively rich and privileged neighborhood but rather a serious expression of concern for the preservation of historic character. Are the residents of Beacon Hill prohibited to voice their idea of home? Why are government officials brushing past resident's solicitude for the City's aesthetics?
Boston is one of New England's largest tourism industry. This thriving city is renowned for its cultural facilities, world-class educational institutions, and sports franchises. Most importantly, Boston is the forefront of American history.
In 2013, Boston brought in 19 million visitors. According to the US Department of Commerce, spending by the total number of overseas travelers from the Uk, China and Germany alone, brought in an estimated $840,375,000 in revenue. In 2014, the City saw a 4% growth in the total number of visitors. The top activities for tourists are shopping, visiting art galleries/museums, and visiting historical places. Boston's booming tourism industry projects 6 new hotel openings in 2015 and an anticipated 10 openings in 2016.
What makes Boston one of New England's tourists hotspots all year round is its unique and historic charm. Whether shopping on Newbury Street or exploring Harvard Square, Bostonian architecture is what differentiates the City from anywhere else. Often overlooked and taken for granted, brickwalks and cobblestone streets bring tourists from around the world to this beloved city.
So are The Beacon Hill Civic Association's demands justified? To some extent, yes. The Beacon Hill residents do no oppose easier access for the disabled, but rather the materials in which the City is using to build the new sidewalk ramps. It is clear that they want to compromise with the disabled but the larger issue is complying with the City officials and getting them on board.
For more information:
We begin with an update on the controversy caused by the new Mayor of Boston in moving with unseemly dispatch to rip out brick ramps and replace them with concrete in the historic Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods over the vehement objections of the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA).
This is the exact issue we are dealing with in Cambridge with the City’s policy on brick sidewalks currently being implemented by Department of Public Works.
We continue to offer assistance to the BHCA by providing research on the use of bricks vs. concrete for ramps. The ADA does not specify materials to be used on ramps, only specifications for slope, and so forth. We shall see how their discussions and lawsuit go with the City of Boston. We will follow up on this issue. The fight to preserve brick sidewalk continuity is clearly related to changes we would like to see in Cambridge sidewalk policy.
Separately, as we wait for the IRS to determine tax exemption status, we have been busy laying the groundwork so we are ready to go when we get exemption. We now have a website, www.cbc-brick.org, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Much of this is with the assistance of one of our interns, Grace Li. Many thanks, Grace.
One of my priorities is to get feedback and input on brickwalks and brick ramps from the disabled. I admit that this has been challenging. I have reached out to the DAV. We have also asked for feedback on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. If any of you have more suggestions, I am open.
The point of this is to understand all sides of the brick ramp issue and to see if the way concrete is handled has helped. Certainly when you look at the photos of the concrete ramps with cracks and perhaps asphalt patches, you can tell it is not better than brick. All surfaces have to be maintained. The solution so far has been asphalt.
We are told by the Cambridge Committee for Disabled Persons that brick ramps are slippery and do not abut well to other materials. In my walks aroundCambridge and towns using brick, the abutment is not an issue. I have photos to prove it. I visited York, ME, this summer. York Beach has concrete sidewalks and roads. However, their ramps and crosswalks are in brick.
Slipperiness is handled by texture and so concrete has to be textured. Brick can also be textured. It depends on the design, installation and maintenance. And of course that is what CBC is all about. We want to assist Cambridge to design according the ADA rules, to install brick walks correctly, and to maintain the brick walks.
That’s all for now. More in the next blog post.
Diane Beck of the Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy