The Institute, The Wall and My Home, Part II


             The problem, dear reader, is that McCarthy Manor’s front door is accessed by a circular driveway off Crouse Avenue and we travel by bus.  The tenants of McCarthy Manor—mostly disabled—travel on short buses owned and operated by Centro’s Call-a-Bus, the Salvation Army, PACE (Loretto), Speedy Medical Transport, Blue Chip and Aladdin, to name several.

            And the buses don’t have room to pull out of McCarthy Manor and turn onto Crouse Avenue because of The Wall.  Friday when I was on Call-a-Bus, I asked the driver how much clearance there was between the bus and The Wall.  The driver said, “About six inches.”  The driver also asked, “What are they going to do in the winter?”  You add six inches of snow plowed to the edge of The Wall and no buses will be able to get to My Home.  Those buses take me and my poor, sick neighbors to day programs, doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping and the mall.  What is to become of us?  And, by the way, the information I’ve got is that The Wall will stand for two years.

            So I set out to learn how The Institute is allowed to jam in My Home.  I call the Mayor’s office, which refers me to the Permit Desk of the Division of Code Enforcement.  At the Permit Desk I have a very nice conversation with a very nice man who utters lots of initials—PCO, TTC, MUTCD—and then tries to explain them to me.  He talks about the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control, how big signs have to be, types of fences, and what is allowable.  In short, he gives me good general information about the process for getting a permit to block a city street.

            Then I ask him to refer me to the individual who signed the permit for Upstate Medical Center so I can get more specific information.  He freezes up and goes postal on me, refusing to give me the man’s name and saying I have to file a FOIL (pronounced “foil”).  A FOIL is a request under the Freedom Of Information Law.  The County of Onondaga calls them FOIAs (pronounced “foy-yah”).  A FOIA is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.  Why is the county working under an act and the city working under a law?  I have absolutely no idea, however, I do know from my experience with the county that all a FOIL does is give the agency a three-week extension for saying no.

            So I say to the used-to-be-nice man, “Why do I need to file a FOIL?”  After all, I am not asking for the blueprints to the Federal Office Building; I am asking to talk to the man who signed the permit.  Is there any good reason why he should be in hiding?  I say to the ex-nice man, “Whatever happened to transparency?”

            And he says, “We need to be transparent about who we’re giving the information to.”

            I’ve got this conversation on speaker phone and my aide, Amelia the Inestimable, and I look at each other in dumbfoundment.  “We need to be transparent about who we’re giving the information to.”  What does that even mean?  We have no idea, so I thank the ex-nice man and hang up.

            Then I call the Mayor’s office again to find out if there’s any good reason why the permit signer shouldn’t just pick up the phone and talk to me.

            Check back later; we’re working on it.

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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