Reasonable Accommodation Request: Making it Stick
Update, January 13, 2022.
The 14-day positivity rate for Peabody on January 13, 2021, was 21.74%, based on the period from December 26, 2021-January 8, 2021.
The rate for Essex County was 25.78%
Despite the fact that my landlord, Preservation of Affordable Housing, accepted my request for a reasonable accommodation is valid, they did not plan to do an effective accommodation. An effective intervention would be, for example, a zero-tolerance masking requirement that was actively policed and enforced. However, their own policy requires them to enforce the posted masking policy, which to my knowledge, they have not done.
After the December 22 decision of the Peabody Board of Health to require indoor masking, the attorney for Preservation of Affordable Housing wrote yet another letter urging people to be careful. No effective action has been taken.
On November 5, I requested a reasonable accommodation, namely to enforce indoor masking in my subsidized apartment building.On December 1, I received material from the attorney representing my landlord, POAH, and Fairweather Apartments. The letter was dated 15 November. The letter granted my request of a reasonable accommodation, i.e., to require indoor masking to protect against COVID. But they propose to continue the same, previously ineffective actions.
And they haven't actually done anything in response to my request for accommodation to date.
A notice was posted about city-sponsored testing and booster clinics. A notice was posted stating a one-hour period for distribution of test kits, which could cause many people to assemble and risk infection.
On Tuesday, December 22, the Peabody Board of Health voted to establish an indoor masking requirement. The main factors in their decision were the continuing trends of testing, illness, and death; and a concern from area hospitals that they were almost full and would be unable to deal with more cases.
The 14-day positivity rate for Peabody, reported on January 13, 2022 is 21.74%. This represents an increase of almost 9 times over the 2.5% rate when on early November, 2021, I first wrote to my landlord seeking a reasonable accommodation to require enforcement of their own rule, to require masking of all persons in the public areas of the apartment building.
Currently the state and many municipalities have failed to impose masking mandates. They make the error of waiting until the hospitals are facing capacity problems. The value of a leading indicator like the positivity rate is that it with reasonable reliability helps to predict future transmission, disease, and death in a predictable sequence. At this time of writing, December 17, with hospital administrators pleading for action, Boston and North Shore leaders are considering raising the alarm and imposing masking and/or vaccine mandates. I wish they had acted a month ago.
What have I done to enforce my rights?
I have written again to my landlord, Mr. Aaron Gornstein
I have started the process to file a complaint of discrimination with the Mass Commission on Discrimination.
I met with the Peabody Board of Health and urged them to move ahead with local steps and/or a regional mask and vaccine mandate, or at least an advisory. These matters are under consideration by the Mayor and the Board of Health.
Letter to Mr. Aaron Gornstein
This is a request for reasonable accommodation and for peaceful enjoyment, and a complaint for breach of promise.
December 12, 2021
Mr. Aaron Gornstein
President, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)
2 Oliver Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02109 by email.
Dear Mr Gornstein,
I live at 20 Central St., Peabody, part of Fairweather and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). My age and health conditions make me highly vulnerable to severe impacts of COVID.
On November 5, I made a reasonable accommodation request, that management require and enforce masking as protection from transmission of COVID of all persons in the indoor common areas of the building at 20 Central Street, Peabody. This request, that management require and enforce masking, is supported by my right of peaceful enjoyment, which you as landlord are obligated to protect. You have acknowledged my right to a reasonable accommodation through the Flynn Law Group.
"...hereby granting your accommodation request. Management will reinforce its COVID-19 procedures currently in place, including requiring masks to be worn in common areas at all times, posting signage throughout common areas that masks are required to be worn in common areas at all times, and sending reminder letters to residents that these policies are still in effect."—Flynn Law Group
"IMPORTANT NOTICE AND WARNING / COMPLYING WITH MASK REQUIREMENT"
"Management urgently requires and expects the cooperation of all residents. Residents and their guests who continue to fail to comply with the mask and social distancing requirements are risking the health, safety, and well-being of our community. Please be considerate and respect the rights of others to the comfort and safety to this development. Management intends to enforce all CDC, State, and local mask and social distancing requirements and ordinances." —Flynn Law Group, Response for request for reasonable accommodation. Nov. 15, 2021
However these proposed remedies are to repeat the methods which have to date proved ineffective. To my knowledge, you have not sent new reminder letters, and the posted signage has remained without change. Tenants continue to use the common areas without masking.
You have failed to implement the remedies which you promised and have not provided an effective solution. Therefore, I repeat my request and demand that you provide an effective accommodation immediately.
The urgency of this matter is related to the very high risk of exposure to COVID in Peabody, which is heightened in this apartment building, where tenants pass close to each other, use a small elevator, and where there are numerous guests, staff, and service providers. I know of at least one provider of services who had COVID and had contact with one or more tenants.
The 14-day positivity rate for Peabody, reported on December 9, 2021 is 6.48%, covering the period from November 21 through December 4, 2021. This represents a significant increase over the 2.5% rate when I first wrote to you seeking a reasonable accommodation to require enforcement of your own rule, to require masking of all persons in the public areas of the apartment building.
I demand that you take immediate steps to enforce your rule on indoor masking and to provide an effective accommodation.
Complaint of discrimination to MCAD
Complaint of Jerome Halberstadt vs. Mr Aaron Gornstein, President,
Preservation of Affordable Housing
2 Oliver Street, Suite 500 Boston, MA 02109
On November 5, 2021, I wrote to Mr. Aaron Gornstein, the President of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), my landlord, to request a reasonable accommodation, namely to enforce their own management rule that all persons must wear a mask within the indoor common areas. I have not received an effective accommodation despite the fact that the landlord recognized my right to an accommodation and promised to act. The failure to act on my request for reasonable accommodation is discrimination, depriving me of my right to an accommodation.
I have asthma and other lung issues and am 84 year of age, thus I am highly vulnerable to catching COVID and likely to suffer severe disease and death should I be infected. I live in an apartment building where I would be exposed to COVID in the common areas because most people do not wear a mask in the building. Peabody has a high positivity rate, currently over 6%, so the risk of exposure is high.
POAH’s attorney, the Flynn Law Group, on November 15 wrote a letter which was delivered to my door by hand on 1 December, to grant the accommodation. They promised to repeat the methods which had not proven effective—to post notices and send reminder letters to tenants.
To date, there has been no change in the posters and tenants report they have not received reminder letters on this topic and people still are not masking in the common areas.