Suffolk Superior Court rules in city’s favor on ADA ramps

Suffolk Superior Court has ruled on a summary judgment in the city’s favor, allowing it to resume installing the remaining 215 ADA-compliant ramps on Beacon Hill.

According to a May 15 docket entry, the Hon. Rosemary Connolly ruled against the opposition filed by the Beacon Hill Civic Association and 10 neighborhood residents that asserted the city bypassed key review and approval processes by installing 36 ramps in brick sidewalks on Beacon Street in August of 2014. The proposed ramp materials included poured concrete and plastic tactile strips, which the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission had rejected twice before. Still, the Department of Public Works commenced construction without that approval after the Inspectional Services Department determined the neighborhood’s curb-cuts and intersections needed immediate upgrading for safety reasons.

In response to the court decision, Sam Ormsby, associate press secretary for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, wrote, “The city is pleased to be able to move forward with efforts to construct and reconstruct pedestrian ramps in Beacon Hill that preserve the historic nature of the neighborhood and improve accessibility for residents, visitors and the public.”

In contrast, Suzanne Besser, president of the Civic Association’s board of directors, expressed disappointment that the ramp proposal wasn’t duly subject to review by the Architectural Commission.

“Having led the effort 60 years ago to make Beacon Hill a historic district, we believe the commission should retain the authority to require historically appropriate, fully ADA-compliant accessibility improvements to our pedestrian intersection ramps,” Besser wrote in a press release. “Accessibility is and will continue to be an important issue to the BHCA, particularly given our many senior residents, our multiple housing facilities for persons with disabilities and the difficulties of navigating our historic neighborhood for those with mobility or visual challenges. We strongly support accessibility improvements to pedestrian intersection ramps in Beacon Hill, and see no conflict between the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the historic district law.”

Besser added that the Civic Association is currently reviewing the decision and considering its available options, including an appeal.

“We remain convinced that independent regulatory oversight providing for a public review and comment process is essential for any proposed project that threatens the integrity of our historic resources,” Besser wrote. “Notwithstanding the court’s ruling, we remain eager to work with the city to improve accessibility in Beacon Hill and to find mutually agreeable solutions that can be implemented in a timely fashion.”

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