This is the inaugural update of the activities of the Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy (CBC).
CBC’s mission is the preservation, maintenance, and considered extension of traditional brick sidewalks in Cambridge.
The organization seeks to address the neglect and active alteration of brick sidewalks in Cambridge that has been occurring with the blessing of the City since the late 1990s -- and which represents a marked departure from previous City policy which zealously sought to maintain and enhance this signature feature of Cambridge
We are mindful that this change in policy was prompted in large part by a desire to be sensitive to the needs of the disabled -- and we, too, are sensitive to those needs. However, we believe that a more balanced approach to sidewalk policy is possible that both preserves the legacy and serves the needs of the disabled. In future updates we plan to discuss the research summarizing the sound science showing the path to a policy of greater balance.
To that end, CBC has reached out to important constituencies with influence over sidewalk policy.
For instance, we have met with members of the DPW as well as City Government. Most recently we met with Kathy Watkins, Chief Engineer with DPW, Charlie Sullivan, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission and Michael Muehe, Executive Director of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
At the last meeting with them, there were two encouraging developments from our point of view. The first was the continuous flow of brick into raised cross-walks. This would apply to many sidewalk areas off the main thoroughfare and would address most of our concerns about preserving the legacy brick sidewalks represent. The second development was that the City would maintain the brick sidewalks left undisturbed by the five year plan.
We agreed to focus our early efforts in these two areas where CBC and the City agree.
We also noted that NSTAR is ignoring its contract with the City to replace bricks after making cuts to do repairs. NSTAR has made "temporary" patches with asphalt hoping that the City will allow them to remain indefinitely. We sent DPW a file of photos and street addresses of these patches. NSTAR under its contract with the City is obligated to either do the repair with brick or pay the City for work to replace the asphalt patches.
As part of our program to raise awareness of the importance of brick sidewalks to the image of Cambridge and of CBC as an organization focused on this issue, I have met with various groups in Cambridge as well as attended meetings with relevant officials of the City..
A key constituency in the City are its world class universities -- so part of my effort has been to reach out to relevant staff at both Harvard University and MIT who meet with the City on buildings and street improvements. These institutions have different approaches to integrating newly developed and existing buildings with the City’s sidewalks -- but both are concerned with their image. The City allows fairly wide latitude, subject to certain city-wide limitations, to these institutions when they make improvements to achieve a desired design result. An example would be the recently completed Harvard Art Museums project on the site of the Fogg Art Museum which is now bordered by newly laid brick sidewalks.
Of course the historical societies agree that the sidewalks are important to the look and feel of the City. The sidewalks are important not only historically but also commercially as their unique New England character attracts visitors to the City.
CBC is a member of the Harvard Square Business Association. Attending their board meetings has helped us gain access to members of businesses in Cambridge.
We have interns from various colleges starting to work with us this summer. With their help we are almost done with our website. It will include photos and topics that we hope will raise awareness the value of brick sidewalks in Cambridge. The website will also connect to our Facebook page and a Twitter account.
We appreciate your interest in the work we are doing and look forward to your input.
Diane Whitney Beck