Let me start with a relevant quote from the U.S. Interior Department:
"The nationally recognized standard for the treatment of historic properties, whether a colonial-period icon or midcentury modern streetscape, is the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which provides, in part, that “The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces and special relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.”
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy's (CBC's) goal in this Committee hearing is to foster the establishment of a formal Cambridge sidewalk policy to direct the work of the Cambridge DPW and its contractors when they undertake construction projects in the City that result in removal of legacy brick sidewalks. The policy would make formal the long-standing guideline of replacing brick sidewalks disrupted by construction with brick (not concrete) after construction is completed -- and to encourage large scale new construction projects to install sidewalks made of brick rather than concrete.
Sadly in recent years the exact opposite has been happening. In the absence of formal guidelines for the DPW, the Department has embarked on a policy of replacing disrupted brick sidewalks sometimes partially with brick and partially with concrete -- or at other times wholly with concrete.
Two recent examples underway this month are illustrated in the photos on this website and also on our FaceBook page.
While in the past City documents have stated brick sidewalks disrupted by construction would be replaced with brick, a new policy is being advanced in a draft put out by the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) and sent to its members for approval. Here is what Cathy Watkins, Cambridge's Chief Engineer, is noted in Committee minutes as telling the group:
Should the DPW be setting this radical new sidewalk policy by default without City Council or citizen input? Concrete fringed with brick (at best or all concrete in many places), if implemented city-wide, will over time eliminate the City's signature brick sidewalks along with the City's distinctive historical character.
At the hearing I supplied detailed information about how a nearby town is dealing with this issue:
· The Executive Summary of the Lexington Ad Hoc Committee which among other things proposed that after construction disrupting town center brick sidewalks, removed brick will be replaced with brick.
We have studies showing that wire cut brick produces less vibration than concrete for wheelchair users. Also, there is now a study showing that wire cut brick is less slippery than concrete. I will do a blog to show the results of the British Pendulum test performed by the UMass Dartmouth materials lab.