Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brick Sidewalk Problems

Even more sidewalk problems to report. I've written before about the many brick sidewalks in Salem and their problems. Ken Bonacci, formerly of the Salem Commission on Disabilities writes about the ongoing calls to enforce snow removal ordinances on property owners:

Reference is made to the ordinance making building owners responsible for removing snow and ice from their sidewalk within a specific time frame. Article 1, Sec. 38-13 and Sec. 38-14 "Removal of snow from sidewalks," addresses this matter as stated.

The foregoing addresses the responsibility of the homeowner. But there are two parties involved, each with their own community responsibility, the other party being the City of Salem. In this time of economic stress we are coming to learn that we must function more than as a city, we must come together as a community to solve our problems. It does not always produce the ideal solution, but rather one each side can live with in relative harmony.

Sec. 38-165: "Maintenance by city. Every sidewalk constructed under this division shall thereafter be kept in repair by the director of public services at the expense of the city."

Now we have a "shared responsibility." My being able to meet my responsibility under Article 1, Sec. 38-13, "Removal of snow from sidewalks," is predicated on the city meeting its responsibility that the sidewalk in question is in a state of repair conducive to the use of a shovel

If you have a brick sidewalk like I do, that may not be possible. Each brick is a separate and distinct walking surface. Each one rises and falls at a different rate. It gives undulation new meaning.

By their very nature, a brick sidewalk is made up of hundreds and even thousands of individual surfaces. They wear out unevenly. Their edges, never intended for foot or wheelchair, chip and crack. There are thousands of seams in a brick sidewalk, all of which collect ice which freezes and deteriorates the brick in very short order.

The brick sidewalks on Federal Street are the least passable walks anywhere in the city; frost heaves make them dramatically uneven and tree roots upheave what few straight level spots there are.

But don't hold your breath waiting for them to be fixed: They're "historic". They are an integral part of the property values of Polly Wilbert and the Federal Street Neighborhood Association.

Ken continues:

For 15 years I have complained on an annual basis, all to no avail. I understand this is a labor-intensive matter. Translation: It costs too much to repair.

That's fine; I have no problem with that. That is until I am told that I will incur a fine for noncompliance, while the city bears no equal burden. Now you want to increase that penalty while still looking the other way. That, my friends, is what is known as dictatorial and oppressive government. The illusional partnership is exposed.

If Councilor Prevey and the city want to resolve the problem--instead of ritually threatening fines every winter--he, and we, will have to confront this fact: "Historic" sidewalks everywhere in Salem are a luxury we can't afford.

We need to evaluate "historic" sidewalks throughout the city and make plans to replace some with asphalt or concrete. It is past time to reevaluate the Essex Street Mall, remove its cobblestones and determine what future it is to have, whether it be opened to traffic or remain a pedestrian zone.

The neighborhood associations need to be reminded that their decisions towards "their" neighborhoods can and do affect people in surrounding neighborhoods and even, especially, Salem as a whole. They decide for all, whether they mean to or not.

Councilor Prevey should now stop posturing and agree to get some work done on the sidewalks.

Letter: Sidewalks need to be fixed before they can be shoveled -, Salem, MA

P.S. The Salem DPW can't win for losing: At 285 Derby (SATV) and the wax museum, there is an artificial brick sidewalk installed 5 years ago. It's crumbling. Badly. Cars are taking huge pedestrian-swallowing chunks out of it. "History" seems expensive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

I have a wonderful idea how you can deal with historic sidewalks of Salem that would certainly be easy. Why don't you move to another city that doesn't have 300 year old sidewalks. Then you would not have to worry about any fines. The history of Salem, sidewalks included, are for all to enjoy. I say the sidewalks remain, what next we buldoze the Hawthone Hotel to make way for a modern Ritz Carlton?