A segment of bricks laid roughly 100 years ago by freed slaves and their descendants in the historic Freedmen's Town were ripped up by construction contractors yesterday without the City of Houston's permission, according to various reports.
In a statement Monday, a Public Works spokesman said construction contractors were doing sewage work at the corner of Andrews and Genessee. In trying to remove a concrete slab with a backhoe, they accidentally ripped up a six-feet-long, ten-feet-wide section of bricks.
The careless construction has angered preservationists and those who live in the neighborhood, who throughout the day had gathered around the wreckage to assess the damaged history, KTRK reported.
One woman, who said she ultimately stopped the workers from continuing, told the news station: "I just jumped up, got dressed and ran out and started filming the site, and started telling them, 'Look, you need to stop because you are in violation of federal as well as state law.'"
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Mayor Sylvester Turner, traveling in Mexico City with the Houston Texans, personally called out the contractors for their error on Twitter. He wrote, "The contractor should preserve any and all bricks removed from Andrew St. No one should have touched Andrew St w/o my specific authorization."
In another tweet, Turner said he would address the situation once he returned from Mexico.
In its statement, Public Works said: "We recognize the important place these bricks hold in the history of our city, and we will continue to work with the community to preserve the historical setting of the area.
"When the intersection is complete, these historic bricks will be reinstalled with improved infrastructure. The intersection and the disturbed area will be restored with bricks within the next three months. The relocated bricks will be placed on a solid foundation to halt the current rate of aging of this section of the street."