The Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition continue their fight against the City of Houston, going close to two months strong after City Council unanimously voted to restore the historical bricks that line the streets of Andrews and Wilson street after laying new utility lines on June 11th.
The fight over preservation, which the FTPC is calling for, versus restoration which the City has opted to do, is continuous as week after week the community members of Freedmen’s Town Fourth Ward show up to the public session at City Council on Tuesday afternoon in their white and black or custom made S.O.S.”Save Our Streets” t-shirts. People of all types lifestyles presented facts, history and pleaded their own emotional laments for the preservation of the bricks.
Mayor Parker, Councilmembers Cohen (District C), Kubosh (At-Large), Boykins (District D), Davis (District B) and Green (District K) have taken interest in this project. They have addressed the constituents although they are not finding the favor they are seeking in the Council members. Ultimately the Mayor is the only person who can put the restoration project back on the agenda for amending.
“The contract is set to go and we are fully complaint within the State and Federal guidelines,” said Mayor Parker at her weekly press conference on Wednesday August 20th. The day prior, she and the FTCP and many community members had a private meeting to discuss the bricks. The outcome did not satisfy the FTPC nor Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Congresswoman Lee submitted a letter for agreement terms that stated, “There will be established a Community Advisory Taskforce (CAT) appointed by City officials comprised of members of the community, the City will contract with an archeologist to chronicle the history and to survey, catalogue and photograph Andrews and Wilson Streets, and they must hire locals to work on the project.”
The project will go on as it is a part of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) project. But the means of how is still at odds.
“It will disrupt history,” said Dorris Ellis Robinson, President of the FTPC. “The City are supposed to be stewards of these streets under the National Historic Preservation statue. By tearing removing these bricks they are proving not to be so.”
FTPC members have filed a grievance against the City which is being investigated. The alleged violation results from section 110 of the NHPA, in which the city is obligated as the steward of the Traditional Historic Property, in which the streets fall under, to preserve it.
“With each cut into the street it damages the Traditional Historical Property,” said Robinson after Mayor Parker didn’t rescind her contract to restore the streets. “We now need our city to have the will to protect this historical site.”
They are calling on the City to use the Best Available Technology, which is trenchless tunneling which is recommended to go under the sidewalks, which will prevent the streets from further disruption and still afford the community with the updated utilities. FTCP cites how it has been used in River Oaks and three other projects are in cue to use this type of technology.
Wednesday, August 20th Mayor Parker said the project is a go and the contractor will begin the following week, but the FTPC said it is not over.