You may have read one or more of the articles published by the Boston GLOBE recently about the dispute between the Beacon Hill Civic Association and the City of Boston about the ramps in the Beacon Hill area. We wrote the following blog on our website, www.cbc-brick.org which also includes a photo of Cambridge Street around MGH in Boston with beautiful sidewalks and brick ramps completed as recently as 2011. The City of Boston has said that molded brick would be abandoned in future projects done around the city -- another result of a policy toward the brick sidewalk legacy that reflects a lack interests in the preservation of our historic brickwalk legacy. Too bad the historic areas now have to become the place where concrete ramps are installed without the consent of the people who live in the area. Will the City patch the concrete ramps and brick cuts with asphalt in Boston as has become common practice in recent years in Cambridge? We hope not.
We have reached out to the Beacon Hill Civic Association to lend them our support. They need help in maintaining the historic nature of the area while at the same time they have to fight the GLOBE's bias in reporting the nature of the dispute.
In an effort to move quickly on the ramps in Beacon Hill the City of Boston has missed the point. The Beacon Hill area is one of the most historic areas of Boston and should be treated with respect by all. It is what separates Boston from other parts of our country. There are not many areas left in Boston which show people how the city looked when our country was just starting.
Yes, the disabled have to get around. The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) agrees. We all agree. The BHCA has suggested that granite or brick be used for ramps. It is more expensive. However, it is a small price to pay to save the historic legacy of the area. And considering the entire budget for the work, the cost is not exorbitant. We should all be in favor of saving some references to our past.
The historic nature of the area should not be put at risk with ongoing ramp work while the parties are at odds over whether it is even legal to do that work in the historical areas of Back Bay and Beacon Hill. The appropriate response to the lawsuit filed by the BHCA would be for the parties to negotiate their differences. Failing that, the court should issue an injunction barring further ramp work until a ruling by the court is rendered. Doing otherwise will lead to irreparable harm to the historical brick sidewalks of Boston.
Lost in the conversation thus far, is how to find better balance in the program to meet the needs of the disabled while preserving what makes Boston unique.
The Boston GLOBE publishes articles that play on the wealthy vs. the disabled or the political payback of our Boston officials. The point really is using the compatible materials to preserve what we can in historic districts. The conversation on how to find that balance through the use of historically compatible materials has not been given a proper forum. It seems easier for the GLOBE to point fingers. Too bad the BHCA has to pursue this issue legally rather than simply discussing this issue with the City.
A walk around Boston shows brick being used successfully in ramps. Although we are told Boston will not do this again, the area near MGH on Cambridge Street is a great example of what can be done today.
We should all be working together to make sure the historic districts are preserved. The brick work done years ago is a legacy worth saving.
We welcome your feedback and support.
In the Sunday GLOBE’s article, Kevin Cullen reported on a meeting held by the Beacon Hill Association. The article raised the issue of preserving the legacy of brickwalks in cities today. The Beacon Hill group would like to preserve the area’s brick walkways exactly as they are.
However, Mr. Cullen argued that this decision for brick preservation came from an elitist group who chose to ignore the needs of the city’s disabled. He failed to suggest a compromise in regards to installing brick ramps – instead of concrete ramps – that would accommodate the needs of the disabled. Instead, there seems to be no middle-ground for the Beacon Hill community – either have all brick walks without ramps or only concrete ramps.
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc. (CBC), believes a middle ground exists that will satisfy both disabled and non-disabled. CBC would like to see consideration given to the proper design and installation of bricks so that walkways are safe for all. The American Disabilities Act provides instructions for the installation of such ramps. See www.access-board.gpv for standards on ramps in parts 4.7 and 4.8. Materials for construction are not specified, but notes that ramps must be stable, firm and slip resistant. Brick can be designed and set to comply.
Cambridge has already preserved much of its brick sidewalks. They represent a legacy while adding unique charm to the city. But in recent years, these brickwalks have been replaced with concrete and asphalt without consideration of those who care about the streets and the beauty of the brick that defines so much of Cambridge. With support, CBC hopes to assist Cambridge in caring for its sidewalks while maintaining a safe and pedestrian friendly space for all.
Instead of calling names, let’s think of balanced approaches to the concrete vs brick ramp issues for the disabled and non-disabled.