Nobody wants to defend the concrete wheelchair ramps on Grandy Street.
Not the contractors, who worked on the new ramps that lead mostly to grassy fields and ancient, broken sidewalks blocked by fallen trees and debris.
"It is what it is," says Frank Jacobini, vice president of Major Cement, whose firm has worked on Grandy, which runs between Interstate 94 and Gratiot. "It's one of those bureaucratic things that doesn't make any sense."
Not the mayor's spokesman, who explains that the city decided to pave Grandy in the pre-Mayor Dave Bing era, circa 2008, and the curbs were mandated by a 2006 legal settlement with the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of American that requires new wheelchair-accessible curbs whenever a street is paved.
If the street is paved, the ramps go in — even if they lead to crumbling sidewalks overgrown with weeds. Even if the ramps lead to nowhere. And even if those who successfully fought for these curbs now wish they were somewhere else.
Michael Harris, the executive director of the veterans group that sued the city for better access, says: "We agree that it doesn't make sense to put in curbs where they aren't needed."
The city and the group's lawyer have tried to negotiate a way to avoid disasters such as Grandy, without any real agreement.
"There's always going to be a problem in a huge city like Detroit," says John M. Finnegan, the lawyer for the paralyzed veterans. "Detroit is a spectacularly strange situation, and we remain open to negotiation."
Grandy, one of Detroit's best examples of drastic depopulation, is the poster street for unnecessary wheelchair ramps — especially because they cost $12,000 per intersection.
There are 13 blocks of new ramps, by my count, or $156,000 for ramps to nowhere. Many of the sidewalks on these 13 blocks won't provide passage to those walking on two legs, let alone those on bikes or in wheelchairs.
In a perfect world, there are many better uses for those dollars, just about anywhere.
On Grandy, whose residents are among the city's poorest, the waste of resources is painful to see. Many of the street's survivors cover their roofs or broken windows in plastic to keep out the rain. Food assistance, a community garden or even a cab ride now and then would be more helpful on Grandy than wheelchair ramps.
You can blame Congress for passing a 1991 law requiring cities to make sidewalks accessible to the disabled. Or paralyzed veterans for demanding the city enforce it. Or the city for agreeing to install ramps whenever they paved a new road. Take your pick.
Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Bing, says the city is trying to repave — and install ramps — in more densely populated areas, using guidelines from the mayor's land use plan, the Detroit Works Project. And the order locks the city into compliance.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, the city will have spent $15 million to construct 13,000 wheelchair ramps.
Grandy needed to be paved, he says, because the street had deteriorated so badly.
Well, OK. But after talking to everyone involved, I feel one solution was overlooked: common sense.
A shrewd, pragmatic city official might have picked up the phone and horse-traded sidewalk ramps at Grandy for new ramps at a street where someone in a wheelchair might actually use them.
Paved originally in the 1890s, Grandy was once home to a booming cigar factory, at least two public schools and hundreds of houses, most of them small, frame houses for immigrant factory workers.
Now the fresh pavement stands in surreal contrast to the burnt-out, abandoned wasteland it has become.
On the sagging balcony of a two-story house, a black Rottweiler keeps watch on his hind legs, while a solitary pedestrian walks, head down, in the street. It's the perfect setting for the latest "Halloween" movie sequel: Bureaucratic Nightmare on Grandy Street.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20111028/OPI ... z1c4e42h7P
Kevyn Orr arrived in Detroit three months ago, clear-eyed, focused and radiating certainty: He could, he would convince creditors and unions to understand, and to agree, on a settlement that avoids bankruptcy.
Now he’s betting that his Wednesday city bus tour of Detroit can jolt hard-nosed creditors out of balky reluctance and into accepting his offer of a settlement: More or less, 10 cents on the dollar. Call it Orr’s Inferno.
His itinerary isn’t public yet but its intent is clear: This isn’t your Chamber of Commerce or D-Hive bus tour of cute shops, 1930s Art Deco architecture or the splendor of the Riverwalk. This tour is meant to convince Detroit’s hapless lenders that the city’s coffers of wealth are few and untouchable (see the Detroit Institute of Arts) but its sources of tsuris (trouble/suffering in Yiddish) are endless.
There will be no spin through DanGilbertville, with its Ping-Pong tables in the park and its youthful work force of international brainiacs, urban visionaries and mortgage peddlers. No lunch at the Rattlesnake Club or drinks at the Whitney. No docent tour of the DIA.
Instead of showcasing the city’s assets, most contained within a few square miles, he’s likely to pilot that bus to the outer 130 — to jolt these gimlet-eyed bankers into the unique reality of Detroit. Every city has abandoned buildings, but only Detroit has 70,000 of them. Here, then, are a few suggestions for a shock-and-awe tour of Detroit that skips the niceties.
1. Load the bus in the afternoon, so the shadows grow long, highlighting the lack of street lighting. Then head for Brightmoor, one of Detroit’s notorious neighborhoods, where an ambitious blight-clearing project has pushed aside a wall of trash symbolizing the enormity of the task ahead.
2. Head east on Gratiot to Grandy Street, one of hundreds of Detroit streets with expensive new wheelchair ramps that lead to nowhere. The curbs are wheelchair accessible; the sidewalks are mostly impassable, choked with weeds, fallen trees and broken concrete. The surrounding area is largely vacant.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/2013 ... z2YADtMWRL
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