BHCA Retains Legal Counsel to Help Fight Sidewalk Ramps

The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) has retained legal counsel concerning Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s plan to bring neighborhood sidewalks into compliance with the Adults with Disabilities Act.

“I’m an eternal optimist, even as someone who has litigated many cases, including some against the state,” said Colin Zick, an attorney and the BHCA board member who will act as the liaison to the Cambridge law firm of Anderson & Kreiger, LLP on the matter.  “I’m hopeful we can work through this.”

Walsh announced at a standing-room only meeting at Suffolk University last month that the city would install concrete curb-cuts with plastic tactile strips in the neighborhood beginning on Beacon Street, even though the plan had been twice rejected by the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission. The BHCA, meanwhile, supports accessibility improvements citywide, but the group has proposed using wire-cut bricks for ramps with cast concrete pavers for the warning pads to help preserve the historic character of the neighborhood.

“We understand the mayor’s position, and we want to make sure that people understand the Civic Association’s position,” Zick said. “The fact is we support accessibility in a comprehensive way across the city and on Beacon Hill, but we support it in a way that’s sensitive to the neighborhood.”

Zick added, “There are ways to do this that cost the same, if not less, and we’ve been after that goal for three years.”

In response to the BHCA’s stance, Walsh spokeswoman Melina Schuler wrote, ““The action proposed for the Beacon Hill neighborhood is in the interest of public safety, and we plan on continuing to move forward.”

State Rep. Jay Livingstone told the Times that he hopes the city could still find an alternative to its current proposal that improves ADA access while preserving the historic nature of the neighborhood.

“It’s disappointing that because the city has not engaged the neighborhood in a meaningful public process, the BHCA has had to retain counsel,” Livingstone said. “ I hope that the mayor reconsiders his plans, so that litigation can be avoided and ADA-compliant, historically consistent ramps can be installed.”

Meanwhile, Zick said the BHCA has received an outpouring of encouragement from the neighborhood as a result of the group’s standpoint on this issue.

“It’s very gratifying to see the support of neighborhood and to see people realize that this sort of thing is why the Civic Association exists,” Zick said.

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