Saturday, April 29, 2006

Is Representative Government in Cambridge Out To Lunch?

Here we see one of the seniors who comes to the Senior Center in Cambridge Ma, on Fridays, using the lift to gain access to the Senior Shuttle. The Senior Center provides a great service to seniors, especially those on limited fixed income, and with disabilities. The oportunity to share a hot meal with others, to socailize in the afternoon, and to remain active and independent means a lot for this group of residents. For some, it is "their whole world."

The City Council has often spoken with pride about the Senior Center. Serving Seniors, it seems is good politics. The Mayor's Picnic will be May 9th. You can expect all the City Councillors to be there, making a good impression, and asking for seniors to vote for them in the next election.

But where is the representation of the interest of seniors? Is it not reflected in the City Goals? No?

A decision has been made to close the Senior Center on Friday afternoons. It means, among other things, no hot lunch on Fridays.

Do the City Councillors really expect that folks that use the senior shuttle, and come for lunch on Fridays don't mind if the senior center closes friday afternoons? No more hot lunch on friday. For many, this will mean no senior center on Friday. It will mean another day of isolation.

Do City Councillors expect that seniors and PWD's should form themselves into a group, write upo a petition, flood mailboxes with e-mails, make phone calls, and write letters to the editor, so they can convince the City council to reverse the decision to close the senior center on friday afternoons?

Where, I ask you, are the voices that should represent seniors?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Proof Of Life!

"I'm late, I'm late!"

Easter Bunny tracks along the Charles River Estuary!

Saturday, April 15, 2006


And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Luke 42-45 from the Bible, revised standard version

Front doors broken and rear doors locked at Senior Center, blocking ready access again!!!

Once again, ready access to the Senior Center here in Cambridge, MA is limited to those with the strength and endurance to fight their way in. The automatic door opener on the front doors is broken again, requiring folks using walkers and canes to pull open two sets of doors, while attempting to manage their locomotion.

Today, folks who use dedicated HP spaces in the rear of the senior center, cannot use the rear entrance. Nor are folks who have difficulty opening the double set of doors on the front entrance able to use the rear entrance. Indeed, there is no sign on the front entrance directing folks to the rear entrance, where the automatic door opener is working just fine!!

Why not?

Because today is Saturday, and unlike other days, the rear entrance is LOCKED for security reasons!

What does the ADA coordinator for the City say about this?

Gee, let me guess!

That's OK, it's City policy!

Friday, April 14, 2006

In An Abrubt About-face City Announces Major Policy Changes

Owen O'Riordan, Assistant Commissioner for Engineering, Cambridge Department of Public Works, left, announced two major policy shifts, last evening, during the monthly meeting of the Cambridge Commission for Persons With Disabilities. He stated that from now on the City will bring abuting curb ramps into compliance when repaving streets and will include intersections/curb ramps near Senior or Disibility housing that will allow folks to access public transportation in their priority listing. This is a major change of direction for the City, and completely different from what John Nardone, pictured right, Assistant Commissioner for Operations, City of Cambridge, DPW, explained to me just last month.

The City's policy of repaving streets without bringing the affected curb ramps into "compliance" is a violation of public law 101-336, otherwise known as The Amaricans With Disabilities Act, the ADA. Passed in 1990, this major Civil Rights law states that a City may not discriminate against anyone based on ability. (or disability) Sidewalks are not required, but where they exist, persons of all abilities must be able to access them. That means curbs must be cut, and ramps built properly. Considering that many cities and towns had hundreds, if not thousands of missing, or non compliant curb ramps, the ADA required that Cities come up with a plan to bring existing curb ramps into compliance over a schedualed period of time.

In an act of pure intelligence, the ADA states that when new construction takes place, everything must be built so as to permit use by all folks. Another important and money saving provision requires that when a city "alters" or repaves a street or sidewalk, the adjoining curb ramps must be "fixed" so they can be used by everyone.

Since these changes were expected to take several years, a city was required to follow guidelines for prioritizing.

However, since 1992, when Cities were expected to "comply," several Cities across the US have been in defiance of the ADA . Cambridge is one of those Cities that has refused to fix curb ramps when they repave the street and Cambridge has not enacted the proper priorities, and has left housing where seniors and persons with disabilities live blocked from access to public transportation.

During the first public meeting re Prospect St Corridor Study, held February 28, 2006, I raised the issue of the ADA requiring that during repaving curb ramps must be brought into compliance. The spokesperson for Cambridge DPW came forward, and told everyone present, that what I had said was not true, and the City was not required to bring curb ramps into compliance during repaving, and that they would NOT do so when they repaved sections of Prospect St.

I therefore filed a complaint with the Mass Architectural Board, on March 9th, and sent a copy of "the Law" to John Nardone. Since that time, the City has engaged me in a "struggle." Although I welcome the verbal statement made during the CCPD meeting, I have heard this kind of "promise" before. Here then begins a series of reports documenting that struggle, and what is at stake.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"But I am among you as one who serves."

A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves."

"For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves."

Luke 24-27, the Bible, revised standard version

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bird Song

Sweet notes along the Charles River Estuary

Friday, April 07, 2006

Trees Along The Charles

Wet Land on the great field at Captain's Island
on the Charle's River Estuary

Who's home?

Ducks in Love

Mallard's began pairing up early this
year along the Charles River Estuary,
perhaps a result of Climate Change.
Sorry this is not in better focus.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dusk on the Beach at Captain's Island

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Really Really Big Mistake!

Loose gravel finally being swept up an removed from the walkways in Dana Park. The use of loose gravel is especially not allowed by the ADA. It is very hard to walk on, and creates a barrier to folks using wheel chairs and walkers. It is also tough for baby strollers.

However, now that the gravel is being removed it reveals another serious problem, a humpy, bumpy, uneaven survace, that fills up with puddles whenever we get even a little rain. There are tens of thousands of tiny sharp pieces of gravel sticking up from the "tar" that lays on top of the asphalt. The City spent over $800,000 renovating this park, and made many mistakes. This walkway surface is the biggest boondoggle of all!

Here you can still see the loose gravel on the right hand side, and on the left is the rough sharp pieces of gravel sticking up from the "tar." This rough surface can injur the pads on a dog's feet, which are delicate sense organs. It is also difficult to walk on with sandals, not to mention bare feet. A toddler who falls on this will get his hands and knees cut up. One wonders why in the world anyone would want this kind of surface in a daily use neighborhood park! What in the world were they thinking of?

This surface is uneven, and water collects in dozens of "valleys" as it cannot drain off. The tar that the gravel is embedded in is stuck like glue on top of asphalt.

These pools of water will be ice in the winter, making use of the park treaturous! Now folks can't walk without wearing boots, unlike sidewalks that are built properly.

Let's hope that the City never uses this surface treatment again in a neighborhood park!

A Tree Runs Through It!

This mature tree, on Granite St., between the Morse school and the bus stop was planted many years ago, certainly before 1990 when the ADA was passed. It's gorgeous canopy provides shade and contribites in a positive way to our city scape. We love our trees. However, the trunk and roods have encroached upon the sidewalk, so there is less than 20" of space to pass by. Wheel chairs, walkers, scooters, and persons using guide dogs, people walking with the aid of crutches, etc, all are blocked from passing by this grand, and beautiful tree.

The sidewalks are services, and folks expect to be able to walk on sidewalks in a city where there is much traffic, and danger to those walking in the streets. The ADA , passed in 1990, says that access must not be denied based on disability. It doesn't mean we must have sidewalks! But, if we do have sidewalks, they must be accessible to all.

Now when a PWD walks down this sidewalk, he is trapped, as he cannot get by the tree.

Does that mean we have to cut down the tree?

Surely there must be a way to have both trees and access?

At last night's meeting of City Council, I reccommended that for every new tree planted, a mature tree that is blocking a sidewalk be provided with a "walk around" or a curb ramp, so folks can pass by, and people of all abilities can use the sidewalks. I wonder why this hasn't been done in the past? We need trees, but we need access too!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Zip Code Compliance!

Curb Ramp Bulb at Linnean and Raymond shows excellent design and execution. This configuration allows folks to come up onto the sidewalk, straight on, and without running into the fence. No parking is lost, as the bulb is not much wider than the cross walk. The bulb also serves as passive traffic calming. High quality concrete used here is smooth and attractive. The cross walks are clearly marked, and line up with the sidewalks.

Below, at Green and Hancock, Curb Ramps were repaired, but without the "bulb" design. You can see that when you come up the ramp, you
would run into the fence, as there is not enough room to turn easily. This corner has multiple code violations, such as slope and cross slope too steep, and no landing, or level landing. There is a huge "hump" between the two curb ramps, and the quality of the concrete is rough, and uneven, with a grey cast. Although this is a heavily traveled intersection, by both cars and pedestrians, no traffic calming is present. Another safety concern, is having the offset crosswalk/curb cut up the street from the intersection, on the street with a stop sign. A problem occurs when the car stops on the stop line, as the driver is too far up the street to see traffic coming along Green St. This results in the car making a rolling stop, across the cross walk, so he can see oncoming traffic, and blocks pedestrians trying to cross. Unlike the intersection at Linnean and Raymond St, the crosswalk that is marked does not have the cross hatch lines, and there is a missing crosswalk at the other curb cut. The cross walk does not line up with the sidewalk.

Curb Ramps and sidewalks are services that the City provides. Here is a question...does the City have a common standard for Curb Ramp design? Or does the standard change based on Zip Code?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools!

The City of Cambridge has been selected as the grand award prize winner of Accessible America 2005 contest, sponsered in part by UPS. It means that the City is a national model for its focus on disability issues and for its succesful design of programs, services and facilities.


You are kidding, aren't you? April fools?

(For a full size picture, first click on photo, a larger size photo will load, then move curser to lower right, and click on the box, this will make it full size. This is a photo of a UPS truck, parked illegally at a designated HP space at the rear entrance of the senior center, I took this shot this week.)

City Hall Rear (Handicapped) Entrance Locked Thursday Evening March 30th, Blocking Access to City Council Meeting on Police Traffic Enforcemet

Ready Access denied at City Hall, Cambridge

Most of the time, when I attend a meeting held at City Hall, Cambridge, the rear entrance provided for PWD's os unlocked, and the auto door opener is working, and one can enter, and get to the meeting on time.

However, This past Thursday evening, the door was locked, resulting in ready access being denied. This is especially ironic, as the meeting was about police traffic enforcement, called by the Committee for Traffic, Parking and Transportation. I, myself, had entered the building early, but minits after, the person who uses the walker above found the doors locked. Why is this?

This is not the first time this has happened, and I fear not the last. There is no buzzer, or call system to assist PWD's at the rear door, and no phone number to call, to allert those at the meeting that a PWD is standing outside, wanting to go to the meeting, but not being able to enter the building. I have never seen a single police order about this type of access problem. However, I did encounter Assistant City Manager outside City Hall one evening, as I was standing outside, with the door locked, and unable to get to a hearing where my presence was material.

While I was waiting, outside the locked doors, several others came and went. And I observed a car driven by a PWD also be unable to park. So, I got out my camera, ant took a photo of the orange City Owned pick up truck parked in the dedicated HP spot. That is when Mr Rossi exited the building, but alas, I wasn't quick enough to grab the door. Mr Rossi immediately apologised for the car parked in the HP space and said he would take care of it. The following day I went to the office of the City manager, and requested an appointment, and was given one, for a meeting with myself and the City Manager and Mr Rossi.

I brought a writen adgenda to this meeting, and I gave each of them a copy, and I kept to the adgenda. I still have a copy of this adgenda, and I use this whenever someone in the City whines, "Why didn't you tell us?"

The main point of this adgenda was to inform the City manager that I wasn't "whining" myself, I wasn't just complaining for the heck or it, that continuing patterns of discrimination were serious and violations of law, the Civil Rights Act of 1990, the ADA. I explained where I was on the progression of bringing my dissatisfaction to the attention of City officials. I explained my 3 court theory, and told them that if the City did not respond to my concerns in a meaningful way, and continued to defy the law, and ignore these issues, that I would, indeed, file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Mr Rossi informed me he would take care of the locked door, and blocked HP spaces, and that it wouldn't happen again. Since then there have been dozens of violations, but I have only photographed one dozen of them. I must say, that I have exhausted my opatience with this.

I am not an enabler!