Our Front Door

Dear Ms Chiamulera (area supervisor for Related Management):

Your letter to me on 4/20 was variously uninformed, unreasonable and offensive. When I do not respond to you please be aware that it is not because I agree with you; it is because I am too sick to waste the energy. Nevertheless, one particular paragraph continues to haunt me. You wrote:

“The front door of the site [McCarthy Manor] is functional, however, it does have a broken opener, which means that the door needs to be pulled closed. There is signage on the door providing instructions as to temporary door operations until the repair can be finalized. The new opener was ordered on March 24, 2015, the day that the service technician responded to the site, which was the same day the issue was reported to the office. Due to the 4 week lead time for the part required to restore the door to full operation it will be arriving this Friday (4/24) and will be installed the same day.”

The front door was nonfunctional. For the first three weeks, it carried a sign that said “Please close door.” The door stood open most of the time, thereby denying security to the 176 elderly and disabled people who live here. Does not HUD require security? A woman whose apartment looked on the front door reported that after dark, teenagers, pregnant women and others who clearly did not live here were able to come and go at will. In instances where there is no security, homeless people come in and sleep in our Community Room. Thanks ever so much for caring about us, your tenants, and protecting our safety.

After three weeks of your open-door policy, on a Friday, my aide called from the front door to be let in at 8:00 a.m. I buzzed her in three times. At no time would the door open so that my aide could get in to take care of me. I called the office, left a message reporting the problem, and asked for a call back. I did not get one. How do you justify the office staff not responding to a tenant’s query?

All weekend, we went without the ability to buzz people in, or get in and out ourselves.

On Monday, I wrote to you and others. Only after receiving my letter did you post “signage on the door providing instructions.” The signage basically said ‘fob the lock open then push or pull the door.”

It is at that point that your tenants cursed you.

We freaking can’t ‘push or pull!’ That’s why this building is equipped with press-plate door-openers! Ninety-one percent of us are disabled! About fifty of us are in wheelchairs! About another twenty-five tenants use walkers! What kind of insensitive moron are you that you dare to tell people who are disabled to act as if they aren’t?

Push or pull? That’s what you, and the rest of the able-bodied management team at Related, do. That is not what your tenants do! Have you ever watched an old man push a walker up to a door, then try to reach over the walker to push open the door?

I am 5’1” which is about the height of many of the elderly women who use wheelchairs, and the freaking press bar on the door is above my shoulder. It is well above my center of gravity. Just exactly how did you have in mind that I should push-or-pull?

You and the rest of Related’s management didn’t have anything in mind. You are insensitive to the point of cruelty. You look at a door; you do not look at your tenants who have to go through the door.

We rented here because McCarthy Manor accommodated our disabilities. You had a legal responsibility to continue that accommodation. You didn’t even try. At minimum wage, you could have hired someone to monitor the door, opening or closing it as necessary. You didn’t do it. One-half of the double doors is always kept locked. Did you investigate whether that side could be unlocked and linked to the press-plate so we could get in and out? Did you look for any alternative to your final solution of posting a sign that said “Out of order?”

You and your superior, Betty Perry, have both told me that you’re experienced in building management. I assumed that meant managing buildings with tenants who are disabled. Apparently I was wrong. How can you be so bloody insensitive? Not to mention violate our rights under the ADA. For a month.

I wish you could have been beside the front door for the past month and heard what your tenants said about you as they tried to enter and exit their home.

Anne C Woodlen

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
This entry was posted in disability, HUD-subsidized housing, Poverty, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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