After failing to reach a compromise on bringing the neighborhood’s sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) announced last week that it would proceed with litigation against the city over the ongoing construction of curb-cuts.
“We understand and share the city’s commitment to the disabled community and to public safety,” Keeta Gilmore, chair of the group’s board of directors, wrote in a Sept. 22 e-mail to members. “The BHCA has sought for years to ensure that our neighborhood’s infrastructure is safe and fully accessible, while preserving the elements that merited its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Landmark.”
On Aug. 12, the BHCA and 12 neighborhood residents filed a complaint in Suffolk Superior Court in response to Mayor Martin Walsh’s announcement that the city would install the first 13 of approximately 250 concrete ramps with plastic tactile-strips in the neighborhood on Beacon Street. The city’s Beacon Hill Architectural Commission had twice rejected the proposed materials, but construction commended in August without its approval, following the Inspectional Services Department’s determination that the neighborhood’s curb-cuts and intersections needed immediate upgrading for safety reasons.
Gilmore wrote that the BHCA has subsequently offered to drop the lawsuit and pay the difference in construction and maintenance costs, since city officials have repeatedly stated that the use of historically appropriate materials would be more expensive. The BHCA has also volunteered to convene “an expert task force made up of preservationists, architects, engineers and experts from the disabled community to work together to develop and present to the Architectural Commission a comprehensive accessibility plan for the Beacon Hill Historic District,” according to Gilmore’s e-mail.
“The Beacon Hill Civic Association remains committed to ensuring that our neighborhood is fully accessible, while preserving the elements that merited its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places,” Gilmore told the Times. “Our goal has always been to work with the city on a comprehensive solution that would increase accessibility throughout Beacon Hill. However, until that happens, we are focused on moving forward with the lawsuit and are confident we will be successful.”
Melina Schuler, spokesperson for the City of Boston, responded, “The City of Boston has engaged with multiple community groups on a number of occasions over a period of years to reach a resolution on replacing the pedestrians ramps in Beacon Hill to meet the federal Americans with Disabilities Act standard. The ramp work has begun, and we will proceed with this work as planned.”