“My Two Cents – October 2017

Tim Doherty, Executive Director

So, one of the hot topics today in our country, is the use of “Free Speech” which is guaranteed by our Constitution and First Amendment.  Usually this revolves around some kind of protest or some action that certain groups are usually against.  Recently we have seen this in protests involving racial equality and the mistreatment of minorities by law enforcement officials.  Today, it is often said that we are a divided nation, yet when disaster struck in the form of hurricane Irma in Texas, Jose in Florida, and Maria in Puerto Rico,  American’s came together to help one another.  So, this begs the question, on what level are we divided and again, on what level are we united?

Let’s also keep in mind that our nation was founded upon a rebellion from a foreign nation that wanted to control the destiny of our citizens.  So, controversy is a part of our national make up.  For sure, even our founding fathers, were not always united in the cause to break from Great Britain.  There continued to be disagreements during the revolution, with some remaining loyal to the Crown.  In the end, we did come together as a people and formed a unity of states–a United States.

Today, the most recent controversy, comes from the NFL, with players and coaches “ taking a knee” during the singing of our national anthem.  This lack of respect for our flag is to show that not all of us agree with what is happening in our nation today.  Certainly, our country is still struggling with racial equality and treatment of minorities. Our history here has not been good.  But I honestly don’t know from these protests exactly what they are pointing to and how we are to address these issues.

But our flag and the national anthem represent many different aspects of America, so much more, most of which are good.  We are the land of opportunity, which is why so many immigrants want to come to our country.  Our freedom’s  have provided the wealth, which most of these NFL player protesters enjoy today—each and every one who “took a knee” are millionaires.  And let’s not forget all the men and women, minorities included who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country.  Disrespecting the Flag and our anthem, disrespects those folks as well.

Finally, isn’t there some other way to raise a voice in protest rather than to disrespect our flag?  Maybe the NFL could sponsor a dialogue prior to the games, which offers speakers the opportunity to make their case, and call attention to injustice.  Or donate funds to inner city schools, or revitalize poor neighborhoods, or sponsor police education programs.  I just think that much more constructive action could be taken that would help to heal and mend these wounds, than by protesting the singing of our national anthem, or our flag, symbols that represent us all.

Tim Doherty, Executive Director

“My Two Cents” – September 2017

Tim Doherty, Executive Director

I have exciting news to report.  The governor announced last Friday, the Low Income Tax Credit Awards for this year, and Project Freedom has won for both our new projects—West Windsor and Gibbsboro.  Hooray.

This is by no means an easy task, and in the past, we have only been able to get one of our submitted projects the award, so to get both is quite a feat.  So, before I go too far, I need to thank our Director of Development Tracee Battis and her assistant, Marion Doherty, along with CFO Steve Schaefer for all their hard work on making those applications a success.  And a very big thank you to our Board of Trustees who has steadfastly supported our efforts to develop affordable housing in New Jersey under the leadership of Board Chair, Herb Schneider.  It certainly was a team effort.

So, a little about where and what these two communities will be.  Our setting in West Windsor is off of Old Bear Brook Road and it will be adjacent to the Enclave by Toll.  Our project will mirror our buildings at Hopewell, two story, 12 unit buildings– all barrier free with an elevator in each.  We will also have a large community center for tenant and civic activities.  This site is about ½ mile from the train station which makes it ideal for someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility.  The Enclave will contain long term suites, townhomes and apartments and some light retail commercial buildings.  We hope to start construction in early 2018, with completion in Spring of 2019.

Our second project is located in Gibbsboro, Camden County, in South Jersey, off of route 561.  Gibbsboro is a quaint little town set around Silver Lake which is a beautiful setting for our housing, and next door to Voorhees Township.  It is known historically as the headquarters for the Sherwin Williams Paint company which moved out of the area years ago.  Gibbsboro is in the process of  developing the area around the lake, which will create housing and retail, consistent with the character of the town.

Both projects have been in the works for over ten years.  I remember traveling to Gibbsboro in the late 1990’s working with the town fathers and their planner to identify a possible site.  During those years, Gibbsboro had been in litigation with Brandywine Corporation, a large real estate developer, that was proposing high density housing for the lake area.  Ultimately the Town won, and have worked to develop a plan that will continue to maintain the local town flavor and not compromise on traffic and safety.  Our site will create 72 rental apartments, one, two and three bedroom units, on three floors within four buildings.  We will be part of the town’s bike and walk path, throughout the town and should contribute at least 95 COAH credits for Gibbsboro’s affordable housing plan.

Our West Windsor site, will also have 72 units and look exactly like our Hopewell Freedom Village.  We are excited with the fact that this location is so close to the train station, and will provide an  increase in mobility to anyone who uses a wheelchair.  Also, this location will lend itself to access to the city of Princeton and all that goes with it.

Lastly, I need to mention the tremendous help and cooperation we received from both towns toward making our project a success.  Both towns provided tremendous help with our planning effort, the passing and approvals in a timely manner.  West Windsor even provided the land along with some seed money which helped enormously in making our project work financially.  So, our task now is to create housing that both towns can be proud to have in their communities that will include people from all walks of life.  Our mission continues.

 

“My Two Cents” – August 2017

Tim Doherty, Executive Director
Recently, our family went on a summer vacation to Florida, to our favorite place—Walt Disney World. This required that we get on a plane for the two hour ride from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida. In the past, when the kids were young, we were able to use the bathrooms on the flight, even though they are not even big enough for one person, let alone a mother and her daughter. Today, however things are different. Jen is a woman, with a disability, who needs a handicapped bathroom. Guess what? There aren’t any on short flights such as these.

This is something that I was amazed to find out, and that is that on most short domestic flights in the US, most of the planes flying those routes are Airbus 320 which only have very small standard lavatories—none for disabled people. In addition, originally, airlines were exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act until it was revised in 1986 under the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, which has required accessible lavatories on the wider- twin aisle planes. The DOT has an Access Advisory Committee which has been studying changes to the current law that would require more accessibility on the single-aisle planes such as the 737 or the A320.

Even the larger planes which fly overseas on long trips, don’t really have the kind of accessible lavatories that a disabled person needs. Most reports that I have read state that these lavatories are still too small to get a regular size wheelchair in, for someone to transfer out of and onto the toilet. Many folks with a disability claim to dehydrate the day prior to a flight, so that they will not have to use the restrooms on a plane. This seems ridiculous knowing that the airlines have made concessions to people so as to bring their companion animals on the flight with them. These “service” animals are important to that person, however I would think that solving the bathroom issue would be paramount to the companion issue.

‘Suffice it to say, Jen was okay for our trip, having taking care of business prior to our flight. One thing to note, however is that there are more delays today on flights, which can add to the time, someone is forced to sit on the plane. Our flight out of Philadelphia was delayed over an hour going out, and two hours coming back—time which could be made more difficult for someone with a disability who is unable to use the lavatory on a plane.

This condition is really unacceptable. I know friends who use a wheelchair and simply don’t fly anymore, because of the embarrassment or inconvenience of having to be “loaded” on the plane and into a seat by way of an aisle chair. This is more like a hand truck for packages than for people. Also, those who use a power chair, and try to take that chair on the plane, have found it to be completely destroyed, leaving them without their most precious asset.

This really is a call to action. We all need to let our Federal Legislators know that this present condition is unacceptable, and that people with mobility issues have the right to travel just like anyone else.

“My Two Cents” – July 2017

Tim Doherty, Executive Director
We recently took a family vacation to Florida, which required that we travel on a plane. Anyone who is disabled, and who has had the experience of traveling on an airplane will fully understand what I am about to say. What a nightmare.

First of all, if you use a wheelchair you just can’t get on the plane, like anyone else. The airline will have to use an isle chair to get you to your seat. Suffice it to say, you are loaded on this “chair”, strapped in like a piece of luggage, and carted down that very narrow isle, until you arrive at your seat. Then if you need assistance to transfer, you will need your PCA or a family member to help get you into the seat. Of course, the seat is very narrow, so if you are like me, and have a little excess “baggage”, it requires a little shimmy to get finally settled. Once settled in, you hope that they put your manual chair on the plane as well, otherwise you are stuck when you finally arrive at your destination.
And as if that is not humiliating enough, don’t try to use the bathroom on the plane, because it isn’t accessible—for anyone, let alone someone who uses a wheelchair. Now most able bodied people can get into the bathroom however it is just impossible for someone who uses a wheelchair to get in at all. So that begs the question, if you have to go, what do you do?

So my next question, is why with the ADA and all the laws on the books about equality and treating the disabled with the same rights as anyone else, how can the airlines get away with this? The answer is that the airlines are EXEMPT from certain portions of the ADA, and making airplanes accessible is one of them.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act ( ACAA ) single isle planes built prior to 1992 are not required to have an accessible bathroom. These are the planes most used on Domestic flights (airbus 300 series). Planes built after 1992, with twin isles, are required to have at least one accessible lavatory, complete with door lock, accessible call button, and grab bars. Planes that travel overseas, on longer flights are also required to have an accessible lavatory. However, even on those planes that do have an “accessible” lavatory, most disabled say that they still can’t use that lavatory, because there are no specifications about height or placement of grab bars that are required to be used by the airplane manufacturers. As a result, the airlines can interpret these regulations to fit their own benefit. And we all know that creating bigger, accessible bathrooms on airplanes will take away precious seats, which means a loss of revenue. Something needs to be done about this condition. I plan to write to my congressman and will join with other advocacy groups to force the airlines to make changes so that anyone who uses a wheelchair, will also be able to use the bathroom on an airplane in flight.