BOSTON (CBS) – The Beacon Hill Civic Association has filed a lawsuit to stop the city from installing handicapped-accessible concrete and plastic sidewalk ramps because it says they would damage the neighborhood's character.
The association says it supports ramps in the neighborhood but contends the concrete material "jeopardizes its unique and irreplaceable historical nature."
It says the city has bypassed approval from historical and architectural organizations.
Keeta Gilmore, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, said the group wants to improve accessibility in the neighborhood. "We just want to maintain the historic character in doing so and we don't feel that is in conflict at all," Gilmore told WBZ TV's Michael Rosenfield.
Opponents of the concrete ramps have suggested using other materials such as granite. City officials say that would be much too expensive, perhaps up to four times the cost of concrete.
Mayor Marty Walsh questions the argument that the ramps would ruin the character of the neighborhood.
"We're talking about less than 4 feet of curb that has mat down so that people that are visually impaired or handicapped, on wheelchairs, or have a hard time getting around, can travel the same streets that you and I can," Walsh said.
More than 200 ramps are slated to be added to Beacon Hill. The city says installation of the ramps is necessary to comply with federal accessibility laws.
It is unclear if the lawsuit will stop the construction process.
The civic association issued the following statement about the lawsuit.
"It is our top priority to ensure our neighborhood is accessible and in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We are advocates for comprehensive improvements that meet or exceed these ADA standards while also preserving Beacon Hill's Historic District with historically appropriate materials. This lawsuit is a direct response to the city moving forward with changes to existing sidewalks without following the legally mandated approval processes that include a project review and approval by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, a certificate of appropriateness from the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission, and an environmental impact review. We look forward to working with the city to increase accessibility through the proper approval process."
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