The Wall, The Institute, and My Home, Part I

I keep thinking about The Wall.  It is made of concrete, stands about three and a half feet tall and is topped by about four feet of wire fence, which is wrapped in dense fabric.  It’s a very wall-ish wall.  It runs down my street, but therein lies the problem:  it does not run down the middle of my street.  The Wall gives me two-fifths of the street and Upstate Medical Center three-fifths.

            Let me draw you a picture.  You are at the intersection of Crouse Avenue and Madison Street in the Syracuse University section of the City of Syracuse.  On the southeast corner is McCarthy Manor, an eight-story redbrick apartment building that is subsidized by HUD.  McCarthy Manor is home to 180 people, most of whom are disabled. 

            On the southwest corner of Crouse and Madison is the Institute for Human Performance.  It is about five stories high and takes up the whole block.  It is owned and operated by the State University of New York, doing business as Upstate Medical Center.  How many people work in the building is unknowable because Security won’t let you in.

            However, what I do know from having been there four times on business is that the Institute for Human Performance (hereinafter referred to as The Institute) has a gymnasium.  The gym is three or four stories high and includes a four-lane, quarter-mile track and about eighty exercise machines.  In the exercise market, these machines cost between $200 and $2000 a piece, but in the medical market they would go higher—perhaps much higher—so a conservative estimate would be $100,000 worth of exercise machines.

            But here’s the thing:  nobody’s using the gym or the machines except a couple secretaries who walk the track on their lunch hour.  I never saw more than three patients working in this cavernous hall of silent machines, so I went out and asked some questions.  Consequently, I got a letter from a vice president at Upstate who said the gym had been built for a grant they never got. 

            I proposed that if Upstate really was committed to the health of the community then they should open the gym for community use.  The vice president’s response was that they couldn’t do that because they’d be liable if anybody got hurt. Upstate Medical Center will not let the citizens who paid for the gym use the gym to get healthy because they might get hurt and then Upstate would have to pay for their treatment.  Instead, Upstate is going to let marginally healthy people become unhealthy people, at which time Upstate will treat them because the treatment will be paid for by insurance.

            Not only does Upstate not care for the people or their health, it also does not care for the machines:  they’ve been sitting there rusting out for years.  So now what The Institute is doing is expanding.  Yup, instead of reconfiguring their cavernous, empty gymnasium, they are adding on to the building.  And, yes, the Post-Standard knows The Institute is under-used and adding on, and they have chosen not to investigate.  Is The Institute building another venue for another grant that they have not yet gotten?  Maybe the investigators should come from the Inspector General’s Office, not the newspaper.

            That’s the problem inside the building, but my problem is outside the building.  The addition to The Institute will be in their parking lot, which is on the Crouse side of the building, which is across from McCarthy Manor where I live, hereinafter referred to as My Home.  And two weeks ago, Upstate built The Wall down the street between The Institute and My Home but, as previously mentioned, they didn’t take their half the street.  They took three-fifths of the street, leaving me and mine with only two-fifths of the street.  That is not neighborly but it’s not actionable either, so what’s the problem?  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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