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A discussion not on the agenda, but definitely a hot topic, erupted at the May 11th meeting of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). North End waterfront condo associations, representing over a thousand residents, have signed on to a joint letter expressing their “deep concern” regarding City Hall’s “community engagement,” most recently regarding the handling of the North End Cycle Track and the sidewalks on Atlantic Avenue and Commercial Street.

In a joint letter by Prince Condominium Associates, Union Wharf Condominium, The Mariner Condominium, Lewis Wharf Condominium, The Bulfinch Condominium, Battery Wharf Residential Association, and Howe & Bainbridge Condominium Association, the condo boards said,

“Too often residents are ignored or not completely informed about projects in the North End. The most recent example relates to our brick sidewalks being removed from commercial street and atlantic avenue with absolutely no public notification or input.”

Brick sidewalks being removed from Atlantic Avenue (Photo: Cynthia Malm)

Maria Lanza from Neighborhood Services at the Mayor’s Office said that her office, Public Works, and the Transportation Department understand their concerns about the loss of the bricks but that “since the beginning of the Connect Historic Boston project, one of the aims was to make sure that the sidewalks were ADA (American with Disabilities Act) accessible.”

Residents were not satisfied with Lanza’s response, especially since ADA approved laser-cut bricks have been successfully used elsewhere in the city to keep the red brick characteristic intact. Those who attended the Connect Historic Boston meetings said they were unaware of the sidewalk change to concrete. NEWRA President Mary McGee said that the North End / Waterfront neighborhood is an economic engine for the city and part of its appeal for residents and visitors is its “old world charm” which the city is literally destroying brick by brick.

Removing the red bricks along Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue and replacing them with concrete has been a part of the Connect Historic Boston project since 2013, Lanza stated. She also mentions that near the Boston Sail Loft the bricks are already upended and will all be replaced with concrete. When a NEWRA member stated that it was not an upgrade, Lanza replied that it was an upgrade with respect to ADA compliance. [See Cycle Track Construction to Remove Most Brick on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalks]

Red brick sidewalks are often considered a characteristic of “historic Boston”, so there is some irony that the “Connect Historic Boston” project will replace the red bricks with grey cement on the harbor side sidewalks of Atlantic Avenue and Commercial Street.

The joint condo board letter is shown below, having been recently sent to the mayor and city councilors.

“As your constituents, we are left wondering why officials would not keep us fully informed about plans and seek our views and counsel,” said the seven condo boards.

In addition to the brick sidewalks, the letter mentions the removal of resident parking by ZipCar as another example of changes made without community input.  The letter calls for City Hall to schedule a meeting with the North End / Waterfront neighborhood to discuss restoring the sidewalks.

Sent by: Prince Condominium Associates, Union Wharf Condominium, The Mariner Condominium, Lewis Wharf Condominium, The Bulfinch Condominium, Battery Wharf Residential Association, and Howe & Bainbridge Condominium Association

Keep updated with NorthEndWaterfront.com for more on this issue in the coming weeks.

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10 COMMENTS

      • Ray – I hear you and I am happy this assists folks better with wheelchairs. I guess I am looking at it from a big picture standpoint in that decisions seemed to be made with little or no input from residents. The ADA concerns are real and I was in no way minimizing or ignoring them. Thanks for your response and bringing it to my attention.

  1. The entire Connect Historic Boston project is a fiasco. The end result of the widened cement sidewalks and new bike paths are ugly – has anyone noticed the puke green color at the entrance of battery wharf? The hot top part of the bike path looks cheap and all of this is definitely a downgrade from the original brick sidewalks. But more importantly and disturbingly, this entire project reduces parking, makes driving much more difficult and truly risks all of our safety. The road is now much too narrow driving from the hockey rink to the Sail Loft. I have no doubt someone will be hit as they exit their car on this side of the road. Compound this with the rest of the utility construction negatively impacting the North End – including the restaurants and retail shops – and this is a disaster. Why is no one in charge concerned with this? Why can’t the city manage this so we start one piece of construction and FINISH it before digging up other parts of the city? This project started by Mirabella pool over 1 YEAR ago and there is no end in sight. The North End and Waterfront is a combat zone, the Connect Historic Boston plan is seriously flawed, the implementation has gone on endlessly, and it seems no one is listening to the residents’ feelings about this project.

  2. The bricks are dangerous especially for the handicap, it was always concrete and I am glad they are going back to that, it should be for safety when walking. Many people have seriously gotten hurt because of the bricks not being even, the heck with beauty or defining. Its bad enough the North End isn’t what it use to be. I really think the whole North End should be concrete and leave it at that. There are more important things in this world than bricks to worry about.

  3. Removing the bricks in the area around the Sail Loft is unfortunate , but seemingly the city deems it necessary and an improvement, however, I wonder where these ‘concerned’ associations’ and citizens are in the winter when this section is neglected and unattended when covered with snow and ice and perilously impassable. Perhaps at this time their input is not requested either?

  4. I agre with Angela, The bricks in front of 190 Commercial St are a disaster, Seniors are tripping all the time, and wheel chairs get caught in the missing brick places.

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