Beacon Hill Civic Association sues to stop installation of sidewalk ramps

KentXie

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Title is slightly misleading. The group is suing because the material they are using is not historically appropriate. What do you guys think?

Group sues to stop installation of sidewalk ramps
The Associated Press By The Associated Press
on August 13, 2014 at 7:49 AM, updated August 13, 2014 at 7:52 AM

BOSTON (AP) — 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 said in the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday that it is trying to "prohibit the city from reconstructing or altering the sidewalks and streetscape in the historic district using historically inappropriate materials and designs."

The Boston Globe reports that the suit was filed on the same day city workers began installing the first of more than 250 ramps.

The civic association has asked that the ramps be built of materials consistent with the historic nature of the neighborhood, but the city has dismissed that as too expensive.
http://blog.masslive.com/mass_river_boston_news/print.html?entry=/2014/08/group_sues_to_stop_installatio.html

Full story is on bostonglobe.com but I don't have access to it.
 

Matthew

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I'm looking forward to the suit over the inundation of horseless carriages on the historic streets of Beacon Hill.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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If there is even one single word about new-or-retrofit installation crosswalk ADA in the latest edition of the AASHTO manual they just lit a pile of money on fire with this suit.

South Acton pulled a similar Operation Chaos on their commuter rail station alleging the now neon-yellow spec RR crossing signage and crosswalk warning signage was "out of character and oh dear my monocle just cracked!". They asked for historic signage in historic font and more aesthetically pleasing crossing gates (didn't like the bigger-size flashing lights that are now law on all new flasher installations).

The poor T spokesperson who drew the short straw for that meeting had to tell them "Dude...it's federal law" without getting paraded through the streets in tar and feathers. Standoff stopped just short of a lawsuit, but they made lots of threats. That was one of several frivolities that caused their station construction to lag way behind Littleton's.
 

statler

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I'm trying to parse as much info as I can from the screaming matches on UHUB but I still have some questions.

Are the ramps that the neighborhood wants to put in ADA compliant?

If so, why is the city opposed? Some of the screamers have mentioned the city wants Federal money but I haven't seen any real info on why the ramps have to be yellow for the city to get the Federal money.

Also there were reports that the neighborhood has proposed to pay for the 'specialty' ramps. If that is true (I've found no cites) why would the city be opposed, unless they stand to some how come out ahead via Federal money by putting in the yellow ramps.
 

ErnieAdams

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^^Yes, statler, agreed. Way too many unanswered questions. The media coverage, at the expense of the facts, has been too quick to employ caricature, and I reluctantly include UHub in that category as well. Sure, it's entertaining to hear about the ancient woman who wants to push her ancient husband around in a designated ancient lane. But she's a fringy soundbite and a distraction from the precise issues being contested.

It's entirely possible that there are two legitimate sides to this, as much as those of us who post here would instinctively feel otherwise.
 

matredsoxfan

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^^Yes, statler, agreed. Way too many unanswered questions. The media coverage, at the expense of the facts, has been too quick to employ caricature, and I reluctantly include UHub in that category as well. Sure, it's entertaining to hear about the ancient woman who wants to push her ancient husband around in a designated ancient lane. But she's a fringy soundbite and a distraction from the precise issues being contested.

It's entirely possible that there are two legitimate sides to this, as much as those of us who post here would instinctively feel otherwise.
There aren't. It says in the FHWA guidelines that handicap ramps MUST BE concrete w/ a plastic tactile warning panel to be considered ADA compliant. Any project using federal money must follow strict ADA guidelines NO EXCEPTION!
 

matredsoxfan

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In the last few years ADA compliance has become stricter and not allowing as many materials as they use to. City Streets when being repaved now are REQUIRED to make sure the sidewalks and handicap ramps follow ADA guidelines.
 

novitiate

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There aren't. It says in the FHWA guidelines that handicap ramps MUST BE concrete w/ a plastic tactile warning panel to be considered ADA compliant. Any project using federal money must follow strict ADA guidelines NO EXCEPTION!
I'm reading the FHWA guidelines right now and I don't see anything mandating the specific materials for the detectable warning strip, but merely stating various requirements that must be met regardless of material. But there seem to be a lot of guidelines in a lot of places, and I'm no expert on this, so I'd be curious to know if I'm missing something.
 

ErnieAdams

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Yeah, sometimes this is why we need the courts. A judge can read the regs and give us a straight answer about the BHCA's demands (which, if the UHub comments are to be believed, would include ADA-compliant work done at a higher price than the city wants to pay) and Walsh's process to reject their demands. No offense, message board friends, but there may not be a single-sentence, caps-lock-aided answer to this one. Or maybe there is... We'll find out when the city moves to dismiss.
 

Arlington

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As shown upthread, there are plenty of historically-sympathetic colors and materials available, and it seems a reasonable long-term investment in the character of the neighborhood to spend a little more and get less plastic and fewer bright colors.

I rarely sympathize with pearl-clutchers and progress/mobility-impeders but on this one, I think the BHCA is right.

Folks forget that the gas fixtures on Beacon Hill all date to 1962 (and use mantles invented ~1890 to triple gas' brightness in its competition with electric bulbs) to compliment a neighborhood from 1830. The point is that the technologies be sympathetic and useful, not trapped in amber. Both sides should be aware of that, but in this case, the BHCA is right: sympathetic modern ADA compliant materials exist and should be used.
 

Randomgear

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Geez, all this fuss over a piece of bumpy plastic secured with doublestick tape. Let the folks on the hill pry 'em up and replace with historically accurate ADA materials that they pay for themselves.
 

George_Apley

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Until the pearl-clutchers can explain to me how the Mercedes-Benz in their carriage house drive is keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood, I will never sympathize with their bleating.
 

datadyne007

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This is just a random aside (and I'll make it clear I don't agree with the lawsuit at all), but the sidewalks on Beacon Hill are in horrendous condition (and on extremely dangerous slopes) overall. I don't think anyone with a wheelchair would even have a place to go once they get up the ramp. Are they planning on expanding the sidewalks themselves? There are points where you can barely fit 1 abreast when walking.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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This is just a random aside (and I'll make it clear I don't agree with the lawsuit at all), but the sidewalks on Beacon Hill are in horrendous condition (and on extremely dangerous slopes) overall. I don't think anyone with a wheelchair would even have a place to go once they get up the ramp. Are they planning on expanding the sidewalks themselves? There are points where you can barely fit 1 abreast when walking.
And the reason they're so dilapidated is that the neighborhood has been blocking sidewalk replacement for better materials since the mid-1940's. Beacon Hill was basically a crumbling dump by the Depression and losing population and property value like crazy, and so the city undertook a massive revitalization effort. Some of it good, like repaving the destroyed cobblestone streets with real asphalt, some of it bad like the Cambridge St. widening and knocking down too many historic buildings. The sidewalk do-over was intended to be part of all that, and got blocked. And blocked. And blocked. And blocked again every decade later when this very issue of dangerous brick came up.

It's not surprising the BHA is on hair-trigger about the ramps. This is just one flank in a war over those sidewalks between the neighborhood's most entrenched factions and the city that's that's now 8 decades old. They could have long ago had sidewalks made out of those precision-fit precut bricks used all over the place on crosswalks. But they insist on keeping the hand-manufacture fired bricks packed with dirt instead of mortar, lumpy deathtrap ill-suited to winter freeze-thaw and all. This is why they can't even get minimally acceptable sidewalks on Charles St. They bitch about the historical accuracy of machine-pressed bricks of uniform size.


They may have a point on the technical minutia of the ramp materials, but the reason this jumped to lawsuit so fast and so over-the-top is because it's an 8-decade feud so entrenched with mutual distrust the sides default to extremes at the drop of a hat. If this were a new thing that was even about ADA there'd have been a calm resolution long ago. It's not. The neighborhood is still pissed the city ruined the neighborhood with clumsy urban renewal 80 years ago, and the city is still pissed the NIMBY's fearfully clung to the neighborhood's escalating blight 80 years ago that their hands were tied on beneficial rehabilitation. Only the players now have no memory whatsoever of the original dispute or why they feel compelled to perpetually tweak each other out of spite. So that mistrust just gets transferred onto the next dispute. Forever.

If they could even remember why they're acting like children cooler heads might prevail. But it's lizard-brain instinct at this point.
 
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MBTAddict

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Until the pearl-clutchers can explain to me how the Mercedes-Benz in their carriage house drive is keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood, I will never sympathize with their bleating.
Ditto. I Know it seems kind of extreme, but if they want to maintain historic accuracy, then they don't get to pick and choose like this.
 

ErnieAdams

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Ditto. I Know it seems kind of extreme, but if they want to maintain historic accuracy, then they don't get to pick and choose like this.
Historically analogous? I'm sure the 19th century Beacon Hillers had the nicest horses and carriages, so now they can have the nicest cars. (For the record, I drive a used Ford, and this is not a serious response.)
 

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