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