The Right to Nap


 “Can you provide me with the details of your complaint at the property so that I may get in touch with the Management Agent.”  HUD Buffalo agent

Sure.  Last Thursday, August 23, I was in bed, asleep, and only half-dressed, with the air conditioning on and the bedroom door closed in my apartment at McCarthy Manor.  I woke up to the sound of men’s voices in my apartment.  Panicked, I got up, got dressed and went out to find the building superintendent, John, in the kitchen and the maintenance man, Adam, in the bathroom.

Tenants’ rights stipulate that management cannot enter my apartment without my permission except in case of fire, flood or medical emergency.  There was no emergency and they did not have my permission.  The building staff violated my right to privacy.

John proceeded to treat me with complete disrespect and disregard.  He did not care at all about my right to privacy.  John used to be a NY State Trooper and seems to think that the only boundaries that exist are the ones that suit him.  John has only worked here a few months and he does not recognize tenants’ rights; he thinks he’s the boss.  I recently had to file a complaint against John for trying to get private medical information about me from my aide.  In my first interaction with him, he referred to McCathy Manor as a “locked facility.”   A locked facility is to keep the bad guys in; a HUD secure apartment building is to keep the bad guys out and protect the vulnerable elderly.  John doesn’t get it.

John referenced the memo that had been sent out the day before as if it gave him the right to do anything he wanted to do.  The memo was not on letterhead and did not have a date or signature.  It said: 

ATTENTION!!!

BEGINNING WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22ND, MAINTENANCE STAFF WILL BE INSPECTING HOT WATER HEATERS AND REFRIGERATORS IN EVERY APARTMENT.

THE DURATION OF THE INSPECTIONS SHOULD BE NO LONGER THAN TWO WEEKS.

You cannot expect tenants to remain on full-alert (not to mention fully clothed) every day for two weeks.  When Manager Dana Natale has sent out these inspection memos, their effective duration is never more than one day.

So I called the office to talk to Ms Natale only to learn that she was not in.  She frequently is away from the premises.  Vacations and sick leave are obviously correct and understandable, however, Related Management is pulling Ms Natale away frequently to work at other sites or to do training (not to receive but to give).

There are 176 poor, old, sick people living here.  We need our manager.  Please audit how many work-days Ms Natale has actually been on the premises and then tell me whether that meets the standards set by HUD.

Jeanne, the administrative assistant, told me that Superintendent John had come to her and directed the memo to be sent.  Had the manager been on the premises, she would not have let John send the memo in the form he did.  A new superintendent who has boundary problems is being left unsupervised.

I asked Jeanne for the phone number of Mark Winn, the Related Management person who supervises Ms Natale.  Jeanne didn’t have a phone number for him.

If the manager is not on the premises, then the assistant must have a phone number where a superior can be reached.

As directed by L. Beardi, your superior, on previous occasions, I called the Syracuse Housing Authority to file a complaint and put a stop to John roaming the building and violating at will the tenants right to privacy.

A female administrator at the Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA) told me that McCarthy Manor is not one of their properties and it was not suitable for me to file a complaint with them.  HUD has failed to properly inform and train the SHA as to their duties.  Further, the woman made up a scenario which, to her, justified a superintendent entering an apartment.  She saw it from the point of management; she did not know or consider tenants’ rights.

I then called HUD Buffalo, where I was repeatedly transferred to voice mail, then told that there was nobody in the office who could deal with the problem.

Every competently run agency keeps one manager on the premises at all times specifically to field complaints that need immediate attention.  Why doesn’t HUD Buffalo do that?

I tried to call Related Management, which manages McCarthy Manor, in New York City.  There was no obviously appropriate phone number listed on its web site.  I repeatedly got a dead-end tape when I dialed their number.  They don’t even maintain sufficient staffing to answer calls.  On the occasions when I did get the operator, she repeatedly dead-ended me on voice mails.  Meanwhile, John, the ex-State Trooper, is roaming the building entering tenant’s apartments at will.

Finally I got a call-back from a secretary at Related.  By now, I had been on the phone for an hour.  The secretary got a message to Mark Winn, who called me back and began by justifying everything that had been and was being done as being acceptable and appropriate to him.

After repeated challenges from me, Winn agreed to direct the superintendent to stop his inspections, and to have the memo reissued stipulating that two floors would be inspected on a single day.  This is what should have been done in the first place, and would have been if we had a superintendent who had proper boundaries and a management company that provided proper supervision. 

The superintendent should not have the authority to take actions that affect everyone in the building without supervisory approval.

The administrative assistant should have clear boundaries that would have enabled her to refuse sending out the memo.

At every position up the line—Related Management, Syracuse Housing Authority and HUD—there should have been someone available and knowledgeable about tenants’ rights and how to rectify the wrong.

And I, being pretty sick, should have the right to take a nap without fear of an un-rehabilitated State Trooper barging into my home.

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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