7. The Belgian Block in DUMBO Does Not Meet ADA Standards

Belgian blocks in Vinegar Hill, DUMBO

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and later updates mandated that “streets and sidewalks should be accessible for all who use them including those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or canes, or whose mobility otherwise depends on smooth, unobstructed surfaces,” writes the HDC.

The irregularity of Belgian blocks “makes them challenging for accessibility,” writes the HDC:

Because of their undulating shape, they often exceed the 1/4-inch vertical surface discontinuity standard. In addition, because the blocks vary in profile, it is difficult to lay them tightly enough together in such a way that transitions between blocks avoid non-compliant height variations and gaps. Like most historic granite pavements, these blocks are also not slip-resistant, particularly when wet, posing hazards to pedestrians and bicyclists. Due to these properties, most of DUMBO’s Belgian blocks unfortunately cannot meet ADA standards for accessible routes.