Spring is here and the Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy (CBC) wants to highlight the unique beauty of Cambridge brick sidewalks now that they can be seen and appreciated out from under the record snow that fell this winter.
We hope to reach out to varied Cambridge communities with this purpose in mind -- and to alert Cantabridgians that they can no longer take this legacy for granted given a well-funded city program to radically reconfigure the sidewalks of Cambridge -- in many instances sacrificing brick sidewalks in the process.
With this in mind, our first event will be to participate in the Harvard Square Business Association sponsored Make Music event on June 20. If you are in the area stop by our table and say hello. We will be taking part in more Cambridge events to meet as wide a variety of Cambridge residents as we can.
In other news, we have set up a partnership with Social Sponsoring. You may go to CBC’s website, www.cbc-brick.org and click on the Sponsormeter Link on the How You Can Help Page to view all the webshops. If you buy a product at one of these webshops, CBC will get a commission. It will not cost you extra. So you support CBC for free. The shops have agreed to send a small percentage of the sale to CBC at no cost to the buyer. So spend and help CBC as well. You may also install the Social Sponsor Web App - (http://socialcheckpoint.org/webapp). By using the app you will never forget to support CBC when you are webshopping.
Finally, I close with some notes for the ongoing logbook of assaults on our brickwalk legacy.
Recently a representative of the DPW at a committee meeting reported that one of the raised brick crosswalks had not worked. Apparently, a brick or bricks had become dislodged.Of course, proper design and installation would avoid that problem as it has in York, ME, Wellesley, MA, and Watertown, MA where brick has been used for crosswalks. Painted crosswalks are a poor substitute but that is what the DPW representative was suggesting. I have included some photos to show how those places successfully employ brick. Surely, Cambridge with its long experience with brick can make raised crosswalks work.
Linden St. Wellesley, MA
Orchard St. Watertown, MA
Hello! Another new year and one, we at Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc., look forward to with excitement. Now that we have our tax exempt status from the IRS we are looking at various options to continue raising greater awareness of our organization and its mission and to encourage legacy-minded Cantabridgians to donate to the cause.
Raising awareness involves education of the community about how brick can be designed, laid down and maintained to preserve the historical character of our city. Once people understand that brick, properly installed, can be acceptable to both disabled and non-disabled people, we hope to bring a more balanced approach to future city policy concerning this legacy from centuries past.
Brick sidewalks enhance the beauty of Cambridge and provide a link to the history of the City.
I was recently at a committee meeting in Cambridge. The speaker reported that bricks were not working on a raised path. I thought immediately of design, installation and maintenance. Engineering studies have shown that brick can last longer and remain more stable than other materials if properly designed, installed, and maintained. And future contemplated contributions to the City from CBC will enable those brick paths to be installed and maintained properly.
Brick holds up better than concrete. Look at the photo gallery on the website to observe what happens to concrete ramps in a very few years after installation. Concrete deteriorates quickly and doesn’t have the beauty or historical significance that brick sidewalks do.
Maintenance was the key to the usability of traditionally installed brick sidewalks – to correct the settling and drift of brick in the sand base that occurred over time in certain suboptimal situations.
The modern approach to brick sidewalk installation, setting the bricks in a solid underlayment of asphalt instead of sand, if slightly more expensive to install than concrete will cost less in the long run because of the great durability of brick and the reduced maintenance required.
Many of the brick sidewalks of Cambridge were installed in the 19th century and are still functional while concrete sidewalks have in most cases had to be replaced multiple times over the same period.
So it is now up to us to begin our fundraising efforts and reach out to historians, preservationists and those who enjoy the legacy of brick in buildings and sidewalks that distinguishes Cambridge from the “anywhere USA cities” in our country. Stay tuned.
Happy New Year and Best Regards,
Diane Whitney Beck
We at the Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc. (CBC) hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We had good news just before the holiday from the IRS. They have approved our request for tax exemption so now we can start to raise money for our organization to assist the City of Cambridge to preserve and maintain our brick sidewalks.
I have continued going to meetings to raise the awareness of CBC in the City. Last week I spoke to the Cambridge Pedestrian Committee about our purpose. There was a presentation by the DPW on materials used in Cambridge sidewalks. These meetings are open to the public and are a good way to learn about not only what is going on in Cambridge but how the process works.
I joined the Participatory Budget Steering Committee representing the CBC to become part of a new process in Cambridge asking residents how to spend $500,000 of the City’s capital funds. Capital funds can be used for physical improvements to City-owned property such as improvements to public playgrounds or parks, repairing streets and sidewalks, installing accessibility ramps on public property, installing benches or street lights, creating a community garden, resurfacing a basketball court, etc. Here’s an idea – do a test all brick ramp! Design, install and maintain the brick ramp correctly.
Through December, there will be a series of Idea Collection Assemblies and Pop-Up events across the city to solicit project ideas from the community. In January and February, volunteer Budget Delegates will review these ideas to turn them into concrete proposals. Then in March, Cambridge residents ages 12 and older will be able to vote on their favorite capital projects, worth up to $500,000.
It is exciting to be part of the process and it may help us decide how to best proceed as our organization grows. I will continue to update you on the process and what is new at Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc.
We wish you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful New Year!
Vice President and Director,
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy
"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
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.
The contract the City of Cambridge has for National Grid calls for National Grid to replace bricks removed for work on utilities. Instead the utility often puts down asphalt and leaves. The City according to the contract, may replace the bricks and send the bill to National Grid. If you have seen such work with asphalt in place, please send us a photo and/or the address so the DPW can locate the site. We will send to the City making sure that it is a new site and not one that has been sent to them previously. This will allow the City to keep the sidewalks as they were.
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.
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc.
Why we exist.
The Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc., (CBC) was formed to preserve, maintain, and extend the traditional brick sidewalks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The brick sidewalks represent a legacy of over 200 years duration and are a signature feature of Cambridge.
Regrettably 15 to 20 years ago the policy of City of Cambridge changed so that it no longer protected the brick sidewalks and began to replace fine brick sidewalks, especially the ramps, with concrete. These changes are not required or mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And with a hard climate for any material, the budget did not support proper maintenance and the streets have become a patchwork of concrete, asphalt and brick.
The popular belief that concrete better supports the needs of the disabled is just that, a belief. Vibration studies at the University of Pittsburgh support brick as a better street material than concrete. The proper design, installation and maintenance of brick creates walkways that are functional both for both disabled and non-disabled pedestrians. A more balanced approach to sidewalk construction and maintenance can be effective in preserving the legacy of brick sidewalks in the City while also serving the needs of the disabled.
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