You call this a world-class city? Walsh's treatment of Beacon Hill residents proves that a lie, she says

Karen Cord Taylor ponders why Mayor Walsh, who came into office with such promise and youthful vigor, is taking the side of a "dictatorial public works department that decided to destroy a city’s historic fabric with no consultation with a neighborhood" rather than listen to Beacon Hill residents who are only seeking to ensure handicap access ramps fit into the local millieu, like in Cambridge.

Boston leaders are always worried - is this city really world-class or not? City agencies that operate on a level of cheap, uninspired, unvetted solutions make it clear that Boston has a long way to go before it can be "world-class."



Free tagging: 


Oh puhleeze

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Grow up, Ms. Taylor.



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The law was enacted in 1990. How was it this neighborhood has been given a pass for so long? Is it really going to be Armageddon if these people are treated the same as the rest of the city?
They've had their say. Now, as the enlightened like to say: It's time to move forward."


Yes. Yes, it is

It is going to be Armageddon, Götterdämmerung, the end of Life As We Know It. After all, a society is judged by how it treats its wealthiest and most privileged citizens, right? If we allow this abomination to occur, the next thing you know, the view from their summer homes will be blighted by a wind farm, or something.


The tactile sidewalk

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The tactile sidewalk regulation was not enacted until 2001.


Oh my effing god.

You know what a world class city has? Residents who do not bind together in neighborhood groups to waste the city's time and money over inane demands. Two and a half years of whining about ADA compliant curbs.

Perhaps she'd like live on Geneva Ave for a year and work for the Louis Brown Peace Institute so she can get an idea of what it's like to have bigger concerns than whether Boston is world class or if the sidewalks are pleasingly begranited.


Geneva ave , I always gave it

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Geneva ave , I always gave it my best efforts with the snow plowing years ago , as good as they got on Beacon Hill I'll tell you.


You are two kind , but just

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You are too kind , but just doing my job ! In spite of the 1958 Ford tractor that had not much air pressure capacity. Think it was an old JJ Duane wrecking piece , same orange , well worn out. But it had heat, not much else. The things we do for $$$$$$ ....

Unvetted by who?

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Ms. Hyphen Lady and the rest of the nimbys on the Hill? This is Boston, not Elysium.


ADA Ramps on Beacon Hill

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The City of Boston is obligated to ensure safe passage for all residents of the City on our sidewalks and building entrances. In what way are proposed ADA ramps interfering with the look and feel of Beacon Hill? The Beacon neighborhood associations, and architectural boards have long protected the property values of those who have the privilege of living there. As the population of our city ages, access and safety are paramount, especially on those cobblestones! If there is anything I am missing, fill me in.


Color contrast?

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They are particularly against the color contrast part of things, the city has already compromised with red strips against a concrete background (really, how are granite strips against a granite background helpful for those with vision problems!). As another commenter pointed out below, how are street corners at the street level historic? This makes me sooo mad as a person with a disability, even though mine isn't mobility or vision related.

It's not rocket scientist

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It's not rocket scientist stuff requiring MIT slide rulers. There can only be a limited amount of things you can do to make a ramp. Maybe the blue bloods can sell the bricks like the Red Sox did a while ago. They are just obstructing the process. Let the lads jack it up and put down some hot top . Get it done, next project, tear down that monstrosity they call City Hall, and put up a proper building with some nice stone, accented with some Connemara marble. Now , that would be world class.


They did

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They said they wanted granite ramps and that the neighborhood would pay for the increased cost. As long as the funding mechanism is reasonable who cares.

The city's concern - granite cracks in the cold. Really? Where is all this cracked granite?

The city's estimate of $24,000 per ramp is ludicrous. A headstone costs about $1000-$2000 - and that's retail - polished with engraving.

Throw them a bone (or call their bluff) and say you can have granite - but you have to pay for it. Why the hell does anyone care?


Will you folks

Stop saying that? It just isn't true.

If it were true, we wouldn't use granite for curbstones. Or porches, steps, bridges...

If it were true, there wouldn't be yards full of reclaimed granite pieces ready to be reused. They're not cracked despite sometimes centuries exposed to New England weather.

In comparison to the alternative - concrete - granite is far, far more durable as a paving material, especially in cold weather and exposed to salt. It has a virtually indefinite lifespan, as it can be reused again and again.

Seriously, educate yourself.

There may be reasons to deny the Beacon Hill residents' requests, but the durability of granite is not one of them.


Sorry but on this point I've got to disagree

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Granite has been used for curbstones, foundations, etc in New England for hundreds of years. It's tougher than nails and beautiful to boot. The idea that somehow it's prone to cracking is belied by thousands of yards of it all over the city that's endured for 150 + years. Secondhand granite cobblestones are still in high demand and it's pretty rare that you see a cracked one.

It really sounds to me as if everyone's pig piling on Beacon Hill because it's a bunch of rich folk. True, to some degree, surely, but yes--it's also one of the most tourists areas in the city and if we can tweak some rules to keep it that way (I mean really--we MUST have yellow sidewalks?) then I can't see why not.

Hah! I love this place, we

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Hah! I love this place, we can argue about anything.

There is a *huge* difference between granite curbstones and foundations which are placed quite deep in the ground and granite pavers which lay on top of it. They do indeed crack, we just had to replace them in front of our apartment building with something much less beautiful.

E How? Really?

That's just stupid. Couldn't you find a comments thread at Yahoo Answers? Or maybe a kid's cartoon?

Wonder about shape and size and use

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Most granite pieces you mentioned don't get the same kind of wear and tear that would be expected of a handicap ramp. In fact, come to mention it, when I search all around for granite ramps, I find next to nothing available from the same companies that sell it as all sorts of curbing, etc. The few I've seen have been ramps made from a bunch of consecutive pavers and not single piece granite slabs sloped as ramps.

This is probably why the cost is prohibitive in the first place. The reason a lot of granite is now competitive with concrete is new developments in the cutting process that can produce a lot of uniform granite pieces quickly and automatically. That doesn't appear to be the case for a big ramp piece as needed. So, it would have to be highly customized and possibly hand-done, including the creation of the textured top (or a granite insert with texture to go on a granite inlay in a granite ramp if Beacon Hill got what it wants). Maintenance and repair the becomes a problem as it requires a specialist to create a new piece rather than concrete which anyone can pour.

As for durability, if it's a giant slab, then maybe the likelihood of cracking goes up compared to most other uses of granite which use smaller pieces or much thicker pieces to provide the durability and strength.

Finally, concrete is much more uniform in color and one of the requirements is the contrast between the ramp and insert color must be over a certain amount to meet ADA requirements for hard-of-seeing people.


Traction issues, too

Those who doubt that granite has drawbacks should go walk around Fort Point in the winter. Better yet, the granite sidewalks on Devonshire St. near Winthrop Square on a rainy day. There are areas of the sidewalks and building approaches that are granite and they do have problems.

You'll see cracks and heaves. You'll see surfaces polished by foot travel to the point of low traction, especially when wet.

It is also difficult to texturize the surface to meet ramp standards that have been carefully determined to meet the needs of chair users.



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You can size granite so that you can alleviate cracking. You can detail it properly so that you get proper drainage to work with winter temps. You can hope and pray that the Publicly Bid GC has an appropriate qualified and pride-filled installer to then install said granite walkway.

But you can't account for friction co-efficient. Even if you go for a flame finish.

You can hope and pray that

You can hope and pray that the Publicly Bid GC has an appropriate qualified and pride-filled installer to then install said granite walkway.

LOL, I know, right?

Wear and tear

So the stress on a handicapped ramp would be greater than that on a street?

Because streets around the world, including in Boston, are paved with granite cobbles. Cars drive on them. They don't crack. It's under the asphalt on plenty of streets in Beacon Hill already. Uncracked. Three hundred years later, it's not going to suddenly crack because a wheelchair goes over it.

You folks should stop making up foolishness. There might be real reasons out there, but 'granite won't survive our climate' isn't one of them.

Cobbles are not slabs

Cobbles have inherent cracks between them.

Again, there are areas of Boston that have granite slabs - take a walk and see for yourself what the differences and problems are.



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Materials have different durabilities based on form factor. I can't snap most trees in half, but I'll show you what a master I am at breaking a toothpick. We're not going to make a handicap ramp out of granite cobbles. It would be a flat slab of granite. Depending on how thick it is and what kind of sub-strata it was on, it's going to have different properties than a granite cobble embedded in a street.

Form factor solution

The form factor problem is easily solved:

Don't use thin granite veneer. Use thick granite, like a step or landing. 7" thick goes for less than 40 bucks psf.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Not valid

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1) Cost - Beacon Hill said they'd pay for it - unless there is a problem with the funding source (and Beacon Hill is very good at raising money for things important to them - so I doubt it) money is not an issue

2) Cracking - Actually the thinner tile granite may be susceptible to cracking - but as others have pointed out, we've had granite curbstones and cobblestones for years. And what's the alternative? Concrete? We have concrete curbs in back bay that have been around at least 100 years. Have you seen the steel reinforced concrete? At most you get a couple of decades out of it.

3) Contrast - the contrast has to be with the surrounding material - gray on red (brick) is fine. In fact at least one of the articles notes that the solution is 100% ADA compliant.

Meets the law, free to the city and more durable than the city's alternative. What's not to like unless there is a political motivation?

Fundraiser for every repair too?

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Part of the city's motivation is a single/simple solution to problems that may arise. So, every time there's a problem, is Beacon Hill going to have another fundraiser? Will they pay not only for the project but also a contingency fund that someone in City Hall then has to maintain/monitor? If ADA compliance requirements change will they pay for the separate audit to determine if their special-snowflake solution fits while the city handles all of the rest of the ramps in the city with a single study? What happens the first time anything goes wrong with their plan and the city says "pay up for continuing to get what you wanted" and they refuse? Then what?

Or how about instead of special fundraisers and independent management for per-neighborhood pet projects, we just handle this the way every other historical district in the city already has like big boys.



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Not sure how they plan to handle repairs - but they are saving the city $1.5 million up front if they pay for the granite - so that's probably a fair trade. My guess is any changes to ADA would require grandfathering existing infrastructure so probably not too big an issue - worst case the city has to install the ramps later rather than now. They still have to pay for them - and I'd rather pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Like it or not, Beacon Hill is unique. They are on the National Register. The rest of the neighborhoods are only historic districts.

Bottom line - if there's a real safety issue - fine. This appears to be about egos. This is a cheap bone. Throw it near the dog while it's sleeping. You don't want them to wake up and start asking for the really expensive stuff - like schools.


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granit is very slippery.



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Again--what are you basing this on?

Take a walk

Next time it rains, load up the Sallydog and take a stroll around the Fort Point area, as well as the older sections of the financial district.


I have done.

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And I know the granite slabs you speak of--personally I don't find them any more or less slippery than the rest of the materials we walk on, especially when covered with a layer of ice or snow. But honestly--those slabs are old! And smooth-faced. There are options. All I'm saying is that if you are in a wheelchair and live on Beacon Hill, then yellow plastic ramps are probably the least of your worries. The housing that is wheelchair accessible is extremely limited and yes--a lot of the sidewalks are narrow, bumpy brick and punctuated inconveniently by gas lamps. Idk...I'd just like to see accommodations that are offered in good faith considered as alternatives to the sweeping and sometimes ridiculous ADA federal regs, especially when it comes to historic areas.

You sound like you must have

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You sound like you must have terrific balance.

Speaking as someone with no vestibular system, granite is hell! If it's wet or icy, it's like being asked to walk on a greasy trampoline.

Concrete, asphalt and dirt have traction.


Dimples Feel Good

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Granite is not going to do anything for the visually impaired. It's not just about making ramps but also tactile surfaces. And even if certain residents of the hill are willing to pay for something different it's irrelevant. They should not get special treatment. Anyhow I like the dimpled surfaces. Sometimes I will deliberately step on them in crossings, or pace up and down the ones at T stops. The dimples act like a foot massage through my thin soled shoes.

granite? granite?

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Where did you hear anything about granite?

The BHCA's website said they asked for wire-cut ramps and concrete paver tactile pads.

At the meeting the other night

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People kept asking about granite, which finally teed off the mayor to say he wasn't going to give Beacon Hill something more expensive because it would be unfair to every other neighborhood in the city.


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she doth protest too much.

On an interesting side note, here is a link to an article she wrote (I am assuming it is the same woman), "Making Nice", for The Beacon Hill Times back in 2011.

And I quote:

"Change is hard, especially for Bostonians, so let’s separate our anxieties about change from the actual changes that are proposed. Let’s come into these meetings with a sense of our shared goals and how all the parties can get what they want. Let’s negotiate with respect."

Hmm. Ms. Taylor might want to reread.



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Good old bacon hill liberals - crying their starry eyes out over all sorts of real and perceived *isms and injustices, but screaming bloody murder when the city actually shows up to install handicapped ramps at crosswalks. Even the southern hillbillies deserve more respect than those clowns - they're are all sort of *ist, but at least they're honest about it.

It's cool that you can make a

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It's cool that you can make a political issue out of anything. Must be a fun trick at parties.


Not quite

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But based on your comments, shouldn't you have poor folks housing all around your house stretching on for miles, and at least 250 poor oppressed and totally harmless drug dealers and gangbangers hanging out in your backyard with your kids on a daily basis? Or do you feel good enough just talking about those issues and demanding they're solved elsewhere, like the bacon hill crowd?

You know nothing about my life

I'd prefer it stay that way.

Besides, housing drug dealers in your own home is the same as having "unsightly" cement ramps in your special neighborhood? Really?

You mouth breathing anon trolls have a truly tenuous grip on reality and no sense of proportion. I guess that's what happens when you declare math and science to be demonic.



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lumping all liberals together in one big anon bucket.

Not all progressives are the white glove type, anon. Some, of course, are, as we witnessed during the Hill's no-handicap-ramp-in-my-backyard showdown with the city. But the hill contains roughly 11,000 folks of all varying sorts. And, I can surmise, that some do indeed like to get their hands dirty for very good causes.

After reading the comments

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After reading the comments regarding ADA compliant sidewalks in Beacon Hill, I have come to realize that very few are centered around concern for those in need. Most express jealousy, anger and contempt for those who live in the neighborhood.


class wars

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I've been following this story for a while. It's really very easy to make it sound like it's just another class war thing. But since no one is against handicapped access, and we are really just talking about the materials, let's start from there. Fine, it's easy to mock people who live on the hill, but these are the people that have tried hard for years to preserve the hill for generations to come. People come and go but while they are living there is is about trying to be a good steward for the historic area. Maybe you don't care about neighborhood preservation, but they do. They put up with a lot of crap from historic commissions and civic associations to live there. They pay a lot in taxes. They say they're willing to pay for the more expensive curbs. So what's the problem? Lots of places have zoning laws to preserve a certain ambiance. Why pick on a community that's spent years, in some cases, lifetimes, for trying to keep something beautiful. You can have handicapped access and also keep it beautiful if you try to compromise. The brash new mayor was kind of a jerk to these people. And I see a lot of stereotypes perpetuated in the comments. I suppose it's more fun then the truth.


The Problem

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The Problem is PWD's have had their Civil Rights violated for 24 years. Beacon Hill is not above the law.


How so?

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And sheesh--there are plenty of PWDs on Beacon Hill and always have been. Is it easy to navigate every bumpy old brick sidewalk in a wheelchair? No. But honestly...when it comes down to arguing about what color the sidewalk ramp needs to be, it starts to sound a bit ridiculous.

PWDs are entitled to equal

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PWDs are entitled to equal access. It's the law. The higher the contrast, the easier it is for blind and low-vision to maneuver. It's not ridiculous to a disabled person.


I am actually a PWD

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according to the ADA. And of course like most people I support measures to giving PWDs as much access as possible. But unless we ramp and highlight and texture the entire world, including going back and redesigning every 300-year-old building, it's never going to be a competely level playing field, so to speak.

The real story

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This Globe story has portrayed both sides pretty accurately in my opinion.

Basically, demanding for the visually disabled to distinguish grey from grey instead of accepting yellow or even the terra cotta red color pretty much tells me everything I need to know about these "historical beauty" saviors.

Walsh did what Menino wasn't willing to do. When the federal government started threatening to keep funding on projects that mandated ADA compliance citywide, this little farce of "maintaining history" was over, but it's Walsh's albatross to deal with now instead of Menino's, just like the BRA malfeasances.

There was no interest in compromise on Beacon Hill. They wanted granite and grey strips. Anything else couldn't sway them to agreement. Well, they get what they deserve now.


I think almost everybody in

I think almost everybody in Boston cares about history and preservation. And let's be completely honest: no one has tried to destroy Beacon Hill, to pointlessly reduce the historic value of the neighborhood, or to make it ugly or unappealing. Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and Bay Village are given more autonomy to make certain neighborhood decisions, with more historic/architectural oversight from the city, and greater funding for maintenance projects, than the other neighborhoods. We all agree to this because the entire city recognizes the value of preserving what's left of our historical sites.

That does not excuse the citizens from the responsibility of complying with federal laws and municipal realities. The actions of some Beacon Hill residents has tied up the receipt of a federal grant for the entire city:

Long after other parts of the city, including other designated historic districts, have come into compliance with the disabilities act or have reached agreements to do so, Beacon Hill remains the lone holdout. It holds that stance despite the fact that the city stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds if a plan is not approved within the next month.

….the city risks losing $560,000 in federal grants as part of a $15 million so-called Tiger grant.

The problem is not, at all, that the citizens of all Boston do not care about the historical nature of Beacon Hill; the problem is that a few people on Beacon Hill care about the appearance of their curbs more than they care about the city of Boston.


Money, Unions and jobs

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Yes, that's what this really is about. It's about getting federal money, it's about unions and about jobs. And I do not agree that "almost everybody in Boston cares about history and preservation". I wish they did but they do not.

Probably union workers will

Probably union workers will install the curbs regardless of what design is used.

It's sad that you don't think Bostonians care about local history. Some developers don't, granted, and Menino greenlit some projects that trashed historic sites; in fairness to Tom, none of them were colonial that I know of.

But Bostonians largely love the local history-- try living somewhere that they don't. Also, we have a tourism and hospitality industry employing huge numbers of Bostonians, so we are all too aware of how important it is to the city. I have been very lucky to work at local libraries and archives that hold important Massachusetts and Boston collections. Most researchers are residents, many with no education beyond a Boston public high school degree and a love of the city.

And, yes, it *is* about getting federal money. The Boston budget is a zero-sum construct. If we can get federal money under the ARRA to cover street and infrastructure costs, then that's MA tax money that can be spent on something else.

Interestingly, the history of Beacon Hill and Beacon Hill residents includes a long time when the very narrative we now celebrate there was spurned. See The Shoemaker and the Tea Party for tantalizing informed speculation on how the role of Hancock, Sam Adams, and some other participants in the Revolution was de-emphasized and scurrilously re-written by the post-colonial Beacon Hillites who though some of the patriots were class traitors, and other patriots, rifraff.

Hear that?

It's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song. Just for you.


I love Beacon Hill

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It truly is the gift that just keeps on giving.

*settles in with coffee and a snack for the show*

Ms. -Taylor

is correct. Where will it end? First they come for your bricks then they come for your Benz. Reagan warned us about Saul Alinsky's plot to use a Kenyan born revolutyionary to enact Sidewalk socialism through democratic mayors. This redistribution of brick shall not stand. We began by saying no to Obama under the Gadsden flag at the Battle of Bunker Hill and we will preserve our masonry fetish in 2014 at Beacon Hill.



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Live in Virginia, headquarter in Cambridge, siege from Southie...I'm not sure George got to Beacon Hill very often. I mean, why would he? It was farm land with a beacon on top when he was in Boston. The State House was built a few months before Washington died. Otis' syndicate for developing it into the aristocratic city landscape that's being "preserved" today didn't begin in earnest until after Washington was dead.

In fact, in Washington's time, the north side of the hill was known as "Mount Whoredom" because of the bordellos and boardinghouses visited by the sailors docked nearby. Let's all petition the Association to *really* embrace the actual history of their hill and not the aristocratic and Disney-fied version they've chosen to preserve.

Up with Mount Whoredom!


Cars have already done a number on the place, but I don't see any of these people demanding that they close the streets and eliminate parking.



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And it was surprising that Mayor Walsh supported such a plan, without investigating further what has gone on, especially since the “plan” was hatched not under his administration, but the previous one. Walsh has been a boy wonder, a fresh burst of energy, a problem-tackler. He seemed to be a person who valued cooperation and win-win solutions. His insistence that a bad plan go forward seemed out of character.

We thought we'd be able to get a different result from our dealings with the old guy because we'd snow the new guy who wants to be popular since he's new.

Ma'am, maybe it seems out of character because he *is* the "boy wonder, fresh burst of energy, and problem-tackler" you ascribe to him but even he realizes just how wrong you are on this so he only has one answer for you...the same one everyone else has given you.

It's still a hill

Ramps or no ramps, I'm wondering how a wheelchair is going to get up and down Joy Street.

(And here in Somerville, we have red ramps. Why wouldn't those work in Beacon Hill too?)

City offered red

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The residents rejected it and stuck to requiring grey or nothing.


Other Boston Historic Districts

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easily agreed to red tactile strips as a way to help show that you are in a historic district, that BTW is accessible.


You are correct. And when

You are correct. And when this was pointed out at the meeting Adam covered…

[Walsh] noted the city was able to come to agreement with residents in the city's other three historic districts - the Back Bay, the South End and Bay Village - on how to minimize the visual impact of the ramps.

"We're not the South End," one resident retorted.

I do not have time at this second to research how many curbs city-wide, in historic neighborhoods, and specifically in Beacon Hill needed reconfiguration. But if I may make up some numbers out of whole cloth, let's imagine that…

50 curbs needed to be made compliant, of which…
25 are in historic neighborhoods, of which…
6 are in Beacon Hill.

The cost of installation, and the cost of future maintenance, will likely be cheaper if we are only talking about two designs, not three. Furthermore, if we are talking about two considerably different fabrication materials like granite and concrete- one cast, one cut; one that could be easily adapted to anomalies on site, one less flexible; one that can be colored to blend or stand out, the other can't; etc-- the city may have to contract an additional and separate company to install and maintain the special Beacon Hill curbs. Less purchasing & bargaining power.

(Again, these numbers are out of my rear-- I have no idea what the real numbers are.)

These would not be thick flat slabs of granite like we see around State or Franklin. They would need to be flush with both the brick sidewalk and the street. I'm not a civil engineer. I'm not a materials engineer. And if any are commenting on UHub, they need to weigh in. But I Imagine that casting a concrete curb to offer a fluid surface with traction from street to sidewalk is easier than cutting and carving one from granite.

Ramps or no ramps they'll

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Ramps or no ramps they'll roll down the middle of the street. The sidewalks are very narrow and you really can't fit a wheelchair.

Disability Rights are Civil Rights

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The privileged do not give up their privilege voluntarily. Marty Walsh is a hero for throwing down the hammer and enforcing the law!

He also doubled the staff of the Boston Disability Commission. I voted for someone else, but I think Marty is a real good guy.

Thursday is the 24th anniversary of the ADA and there's going to be a parade and celebration at City Hall 11-3. All are welcome to attend.


Attorneys for the

US chamber of commerce, also known as the Supreme Court, will find "legitimate" commerce concerns to gut ADA.

beacon hill

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Walsh should put John Kerry's fire hydrant back where it was. We are the entitled, to hell with the handicapped who do not have servant to carry them over the curbs

Here's a thought

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Since the residents of Beacon Hill are so concerned about the appearance of their "historic" district that they don't want the City installing wheelchair ramps on the PUBLIC streets, then I propose that Mayor Walsh immediately direct that all those resident parking signs - you know, the signs that didn't exist in the 18th century - be immeidately removed..


Handicap ramps will ruin the

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Handicap ramps will ruin the character of Beacon hill, Beacon hill residents do not want the city of boston of public works to rip open the historic brick sidewalk at intersections and replace it with yellow rubbery looking ramps which are all over the city. So it's like saying for example I purchase a multi unit building in Beacon hill and I rent out entire building to immigrant families for cheap rent, family in building decide to have parties on weekends , they decide to play loud music and cook up a feast using thier native bbq sauce , and the loud music and stench of thier bbq angers residents, what are the Elite Beacon hill residents going do use thier money and power to kick out the immigrant tenants.

Cool story, bro

except for the minor fact that in reality, in contrast to your narrative, the beacon hill residents used their power and their money to preserve low-income housing in the neighborhood rather than letting developers turn every last scrap of real estate into luxury units.

What's historic about the street corners?

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She seems worried about the aesthetic look of the Beacon Hill but this neighborhood, except for Charles St. and the State House, is not really touristy or contain major points of historical significance. The street corners are even less so. I think they are building their neighborhood up to be a larger part of the fabric of Boston than it really is.


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These are also the same people who refused to allow a much-loved burrito maker to establish a business in a long-dead barbershop near Cambridge Street,,,, history.

This is what Beacon Hill has become when it comes to accepting itself as part of the city. They aren't about the history, just the illusion of it. They are just NIMBYs. The "historical nature" of their neighborhood is a prosthetic to replace the gated fence they wish they could erect instead. Meeting this ADA requirement shatters their illusion.


Context circa 1974.

It was just another crap neighborhood beyond the tiny zone that contains Louisburg Square and the south side of what was the Tri mountain before the Hancocks hauled away the three peak elements for fill.

The backside along the north was gloriously shady with junkies, winos in cheap rooming houses and so on.

I briefly lived in one called the Mannell House on Bowdoin street, a few blocks south of the Red Hat.

Its modern significance probably dates back to when it became a reasonably tolerant neighborhood for gays back when the city was a lot less welcoming.

Now it's just another branding routine for real estate speculators, a lot of asset inflation for basically sub par living accommodations beyond that hyper precious Brahmin zone.

In some ways this fuss just masks that underlying reality in this strange time where a good part of high value Boston gets by on fumes.

It helps to underscore the idea that this is worth a lot for all the latecomers who grossly overpaid and are unlikely to see much equity growth in the coming decade.


All neighborhoods in Boston

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All neighborhoods in Boston have low income housing from East Boston to Hyde Park to Jamaica Plain but Beacon hill " you f#ckin& kidding me.. You think John Kerry will ever convert his Louisberg square mansion to low income housing.

You are lying.

You're just flat out lying.

For starters, off the top of my head:

  • 250 Cambridge street - 65 section 8 units
  • Peter Faneuil school: something like 30 subsidized units.
  • Joy street residences about 20 subsidized units for HIV+ tenants
  • Beacon house: 85 Section 8 units
  • Bowdoin School: 30 units, of which 25 or so are Section 8.

Complete god damned lie,Kaz.

These are also the same people who refused to allow a much-loved burrito maker to establish a business in a long-dead barbershop near Cambridge Street,,,, history.

That's an outright lie.

The question was not "Should Julie be allowed to open her burrito place an Grove Street" The question was, "Should a Grove Street property owner be allowed to convert residential space in his building into food service space, forever." The fact that the first proposed tenant happened to be Julie is completely irrelevant.

See, one reason the neighborhood organization is taken somewhat seriously by the city and has been effective for 75 years is that it operates on the basis of principle, not on the basis of personal politics. The well established principle is that the association opposes conversion of residential space to commercial space within the interior of the district. Period. Not, "Well, we'll decide case-by-case, based on whether we like the applicant or not."

It was not a barbershop.

It was not a barber shop. Once upon a time, decades ago, there was a barber shop at that location. Legally, that's of no more relevance than the fact that the site was once a cow pasture. Or a pre-cambrian ocean bed, for that matter.

It was residential space. There was no pre-existing nonconforming use that qualified it as commercial space.

The most recent preceding use

The most immediate preceding use, for several decades, was as unoccupied residential space. The barber shop is ancient history and legally irrelevant.

Ha, purely by force of default

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unoccupied residential space

Yes, that had mirrors on the walls at regular intervals, spots on the floor for circular-footed chairs, and paint across the window that said BARBERSHOP....

...and that was 2012!

Calling it "unoccupied residential space" is purely a lingual trick of the zoning defaulting away from the commercial zoning it had for 2 years after it stopped being a barbershop...even though it still had every other aspect of still being a defunct barbershop.

PS - If we're playing this game, then you know what else is "legally irrelevant": what the BHCA wants.


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apparently Julie has a different take:

"King feels that she has encountered difficulties not simply because of the typical red tape but because she is an outsider in the community despite her lengthy tenure and positive record: "My greatest mistake in these 13-plus years of having the business, six of them in Beacon Hill, has been not becoming rich."


"Opponents say the move "did not fit the environment of the residential street and could bring increased traffic."

Ah, yes. Did not "fit the environment" like yellow bump pads and concrete. I see a pattern.

And you really should not call people "liars". But it does not surprise me. Get a room full of those that think like yourself and I can see why the installation of ADA compliant ramps was held up for 2 1/2 years.

You're being played

First of all, anyone who said the move "did not fit the environment." is not speaking for the BHCA, which has a very simple position: opposition to any conversion of any residential space to commercial use. Period. The BHCA has always and consistently opposed such conversion, whether for a real estate office, for an accountant, for an antique shop, for MGH. That's the thing about principles: once you establish them it takes the personalities out of the picture. It's really unfortunate that Julie failed to understand this and chose to take it personally, or making it about wealth, race, or class.

You're being played. Somebody wants an exception to the rules that everyone else follows, and so they front a sympathetic character (Julie, hardworking successful immigrant owner beloved by everyone) and start painting anyone who objects, for any reason, with the "racist, snob." brush. Uncritical thinkers lap it up.

It's right out of the same playbook the MBTA used when the neighbors raised concerns about the construction of the new elevators for the Copley Square T station. ("Rich jerks hate the handicapped; go away.") Actually, the neighbors had engineering concerns about the foundations of some buildings and about a big steam pipe; they wanted to move the entrance a short distance. The neighbors' concerns turned out to be right, and the MBTA ended up spending a fortune to remediate damage that they could have avoided in the first place rather than trying to play an inept game of class war.

And, for the record, the installation of ADA ramps was not held up by the neighborhood, which, of course, has no legal power to do so. The neighborhood has simply been asking the city to consider a solution that has worked well elsewhere, and the city is being pig-headed.

Right...I have an agenda to make you all seem like assholes

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Why would I have that agenda? You do well enough for yourselves as a group.

From an e-mail by Julie right after the BHCA meeting to discuss her desire to move into the old barbershop (which is still an old barbershop): "I am writing today to update you on the latest relocation developments. As some of you may have heard, our meeting with the BHCA was not that easy.

Unfortunately, there are some neighborhood members who do not want us to move to 12 Grove St. From what we heard last Wednesday, their concerns were around the smell and how it would affect the whole street. Additionally, they worried about rats infesting the area because of us being there. They were also worried with the noise we or our customers would make, or that people would be eating on their building steps. Lastly, the fears of decreasing property values due to having a food business nearby were also discussed." (All of which is also sourced in this Patch article from the meeting.)

Do you remember what the BHCA head said at the time? "Buy a food truck....and park it somewhere else." Paraphrasing of course, but the intent was clear.

In the meantime, when all of this was going down, you could see the dilapidated barbershop in Google Street View. It was a sore and Villa Mexico would have made it a useful part of the city again after decades of non-use (which is why it "reverted" back to residential space and needed rezoning even though it was clearly zoned commercial as its last ACTUAL usage...the rezoning was purely a technicality and how BHCA was able to step in the way and NIMBY the move against everyone else's wishes).

Now, Google Street View shows an active and vibrant.....privacy room divider. In barbershop windows with a dead store front facing the street. Because the owners have had to turn it back into some form of an apartment to make ends meet after they thought Villa Mexico would be able to move in downstairs. It's not an apartment...these people are living in an open "studio" with blockers up for privacy in their "apartment" because they're living in what is still a dead barbershop. Wow, so much better than a burrito restaurant.

And, by-the-by, your "75 years" crap is totally exposed by this very story. Who forgot to tell the BHCA to stand on principle 30 years ago when it was allowed to become a barbershop by commercial variance to the zoning? It would have remained commercial to this very day had it not gone unused for more than 2 which point it went unused for 20 because even the current owners don't want to actually deal with truly converting it back into actual residence space...just the zoning group does. Congratulations...what a win for Beacon Hill to have giant blank windows with a blank privacy divider in them staring out on the street.

Put up some cites, bro

And, by-the-by, your "75 years" crap is totally exposed by this very story. Who forgot to tell the BHCA to stand on principle 30 years ago when it was allowed to become a barbershop by commercial variance to the zoning?

Please provide evidence to support your multiple claims that:

  1. The barbershop was put in 30 years ago
  2. A zoning variance was required at the time the barbershop was put in
  3. The bhca did not oppose the variance

Julie wanted special treatment. When she was asked to abide by the same rules and laws as everyone else, she lashed out at the very same people who had been among her strongest supporters. A lot of us felt personally betrayed by her.

Who is "Everyone Else?"

BHCA was able to step in the way and NIMBY the move against everyone else's wishes

Who is "everyone else"?

The BHCA has earned a reputation with the city for responsibly representing the consensus of neighbors and the long-term interests of the neighborhood. The BHCA has no legal authority to block anything. If the city truly thought that the BHCA had run off the rails, was not actually representing the opinion of the people, or was acting arbitrarily or unfairly, then the city could have simply issued the variance. The city is under no obligation to listen to the BHCA.

Because the owners have had

Because the owners have had to turn it back into some form of an apartment to make ends meet after they thought Villa Mexico would be able to move in downstairs.

Oh, puh-leeze. "To make ends meet?"

The owners let the place sit empty for a long time. Now they suddenly have an urgent need to rent it out?

Know not which you speak

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12A was purchased by the landlord in September 2011 with the expectation that Julie would be able to move right in (she was originally told she would have to leave the gas station on Sept 1). The plan fell apart due to the BHCA.

A Beacon Hill couple, "Wilson angels," bought the Grove Street building and put together an "incredible proposition" for Villa Mexico, the announcement said. However, the restaurant will require a new zoning permit to allow take-out food service. If the restaurant gets approval, King said, they could move in to the former barber shop in January 2012.

Whitewash this all you want. It's entertaining.