by eila in Accessibility, Announcements, Arts and Culture, Civil and Human Rights, Development and Zoning, Government Reform, Public Health & Safety
Posted on May 20, 2010 at 9:55 am
Last Modified on May 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm
The Architectural Access Board will hold a Hearing on 18 Architectural Access Code Violations for Arts at the Armory facility on Monday, May 24, at 1 p.m.
back story: On February 8, Building Inspector Eddie Nuzzo provided sworn testimony to the Architectural Access Board (AAB) at a Variance Hearing to support the owner Joseph Sater’s request to be relieved from obligations to improve the entrance ramp’s slope, which should not exceed a maximum slope of 8.3%, and also to grant relief from code mandating that a level landing be provided.
Mr. Sater didn’t want to spend an extra $30,000 to make this entrance compliant; he’d just spent 3 million to renovate the facility.
Eddie said that the Armory Entrance ramp is “9.8% over 20 feet.” Based on his and the Armory architect’s (William Schaefer) testimony, the AAB granted these Variances, on the condition that an automatic door opener be placed at the foot of the ramp, so that wheelchair users would be able to open the door at the bottom, and sail from the bottom of the ramp into the foyer of the building without pausing.
Two months later, Eddie Nuzzo was promoted to become Somerville’s Superintendent of Inspectional Services. (Somerville Journal April 15, 2010)
The AAB was deceived by the Superintendent in three ways; the public’s safety is in jeopardy until these Entrance ramp issues are resolved.
-First, this ramp’s rising slope is 9.8% only at the foot of the ramp- by the time it reaches the door, it’s 13.3%. A Building Inspector should know that, in providing an estimate of a ramp’s slope, he needs to measure every 2 feet, and then do the math. A slope of even 9.8% is extremely unsafe for manual wheelchair users; and here, the ramp is 160% over maximum code by the time the participant gets to the door!
-Second, there is a public communications system at the top of the ramp; so, when the automatic door opener is not turned on during public use, individuals with an appointment at the Armory will need to pause at the top of the ramp to indicate their presence via the intercom system several feet from the entrance. At that point on the ramp, the wheelchair user is already coping with an excessive slope of 12.8%- if they haven’t tipped over yet. How can they safely gain entry when they are being buzzed in, with no level landing before the door?
-Third, the Armory only applied for these specific ramp Variances, even though there were many other code violations present at the time both inside and outside the facility at the moment the Armory first opened its doors in 2008. (see below for a sampling of additional code violations that will be heard at the Hearing on Monday). The fact that those Variance needs were not exposed to the AAB before the Armory opened its doors, nor at the February hearing, when they had an opportunity to request Variances for a range of barrier issues, appears to be a deceptive practice on the part of Somerville’s Building Inspector, the Armory Owner, and the Architect.
In December, the Community Access & Inclusion Project (CAIP, based in Somerville) requested that the Variance be denied on this basis:
1. This facility is a valuable community asset, and is a source of many economic, social and cultural opportunities. People with disAbilities should be provided equal and full access to use this facility in whatever role they choose (artist, performer, manager, employee, student, visitor) and in the most integrated manner possible.
2. The City of Somerville regularly chooses this facility for public events and should not be denying individuals with disAbilities equal access to any municipal programs and events.
3. It is not infeasible to improve this entrance, and the cost of the improvement is not disproportionately burdensome compared to the amount of rental revenue that will accrue to the Owner annually.
Although the Variance requests were granted by the AAB in February (on the basis of misleading sworn testimony), CAIP’s timely communication regarding the Variance request was lost in the shuffle of Christmas-season emails, and did not come to light to the AAB until early March. As a result of that photographic evidence, the AAB is re-hearing the case.
The Hearing will take place May 24, 2010 at 1 p.m. on the 13th floor of One Ashburton Place.
In addition to the excessive ramp slope and lack of level landing, now the AAB will also be hearing on 17 other architectural access code violations at the Armory. These include:
lack of accessible parking;
lack of accessible pedestrian routes from parking and sidewalks to door;
lack of accessible public communications system at entrance;
lack of accessible Emergency Exit from Performance space;
lack of access to Manager’s Office;
lack of accessible route, during events, to the new Mezzanine in the Performance Space;
lack of accessible elevator controls and signage; and
lack of assistive listening systems in all four public assembly areas.
This Hearing Is Open to the Public!
For more information:
The Variance hearing is Docket No. V09-197.
The Complaint for the additional Code Violations is Docket No. C10-059.
Architectural Access Board
One Ashburton Place, Room 1310
Boston, MA 02108.
Phone: (617) 727-0660
Fax: (617) 727-0665