Boston, MA

Eviction threat can loom for independent elderly

February 15, 2004
Since a stroke four years ago, Esther Hurwitz, an 83-year-old retired bookkeeper, has difficulty reading, telling time and making change. Several times, her neighbors say, she has appeared at the front desk of her co-op apartment building after misplacing her false teeth or several hundred dollars in cash.
     Family members concede it would be easier if their Aunt Ette was to move to an assisted-living community. But Ms. Hurwitz wants to stay in the home where she has lived for 35 years. And so they hired three home care assistants to look after her 18 hours a day, six days a week.
     It is not enough, her neighbors say. In November, the co-op board filed to evict her, saying that by appearing "disoriented and confused" on several occasions, she had violated her co-op agreement.
     While her family fights the eviction in Boston Housing Court, the pixieish, white-haired woman at the center of the dispute sounded bewildered. "I still can't understand what I did that was so terrible," she said recently, gazing out at Boston Harbor from her 28th-floor studio. "You just feel as though you are garbage."
     Ms. Hurwitz is part of a growing group of elderly people who are fighting for the right to age how, and where, they choose. A host of challenges, social and legal, awaits them. Some apartment dwellers, with disabilities like diabetes or stroke-related complications, are facing eviction by landlords and co-op boards concerned about liability if a resident is hurt or harms the neighbors. Housing managers also say they are sometimes forced to make decisions for aging residents whose families have neglected them. The threat of eviction may be the only way to "prompt a response from a social service agency, the court or some family members," said Catherine F. Downing, a lawyer who is representing the co-op board in Ms. Hurwitz's building and who refused to comment directly on the case.

Ex-Boston Fed chief to lead Freddie Mac

December 08, 2003
Richard Syron, who headed the Boston Federal Reserve Bank during the bailout of New England's largest bank, was appointed chairman and chief executive yesterday of Freddie Mac, the troubled government-sponsored mortgage finance company.
     Syron is a turnaround specialist who recently completed a complex restructuring of Waltham's Thermo Electron Corp. and was chairman of the American Stock Exchange when it merged with the parent of the Nasdaq stock exchange, the National Association of Securities Dealers. He said yesterday that he is ready, at age 60, for a new challenge. Freddie Mac is one of the nation's top financial institutions, with $752 billion in assets at the end of 2002.
     In early June, Freddie Mac's top three executives were ousted in a surprise housecleaning by the board, which had lost confidence in management after accounting irregularities were discovered earlier this year. Freddie Mac had understated its profits by as much as $5 billion over the past three years, prompting an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Freddie Mac, created by the federal government in the 1970s, is a publicly-traded company.

Massachusetts court: State wrong to ban gay marriage

November 18, 2003
Massachusetts' highest court today struck down a state ban on same-sex marriages, ruling that the right to marry includes "the right to marry the person of one's choice."
     By a 4-3 vote, the court said Massachusetts was violating its own state constitution by denying the "legal, financial and social benefits of marriage" to people of the same sex who wish to marry.
     It rejected the state's chief argument in favor of the ban: that the purpose of marriage is "procreation." Legally, the court said, marriage means "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others."

Mass. AG, homeowner settle housing discrimination suit

August 25, 2003
A woman who allegedly refused to rent a home she owned to a black family who used to live in Georgia must pay the family $50,000 as part of a settlement with the Massachusetts attorney general.
     Attorney General Thomas Reilly filed a complaint alleging that Mary Murnane violated state housing laws in 2000 when she refused to rent a single-family home she owned in the Boston suburb of Belmont to Stephen and Karen Ruffin and their two children.
     The Ruffins moved to the Boston area from Decatur, Ga., when Stephen Ruffin was named the Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the 2000-2001 academic year.

OPINION: Racism and the heartland reparations drive

August 05, 2003
I recently wrote a piece saying America should apologize for slavery. This resulted in an expected deluge of e-mails castigating me for dredging up events that most white Americans today deny any tie to.
     Most e-mails did not touch with a 10-foot American flagpole whether their white privilege of today is in any way due to the fact that America grew fat on slavery for nearly 250 years and white immigrants moved past black folks for another 100 years in housing and education under government-sanctioned segregation and repression.
     This was on top of columns defending affirmative action for African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans at the University of Michigan. It's over, the e-mails said. Get over it. Get a life.

Discrimination board hears Freetown case

July 09, 2003
Round One of Freetown Police Officers Terrance Christiansen and Charles Sullivan vs. Freetown began Tuesday at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The trial is expected to last for about three weeks, summon 20 witnesses and cost the town of Freetown more than $100,000 if it loses.
     Tuesday’s hearing, lasting more than three hours, called on former police dispatcher Kim Blanchard, former Police Chief Edward Mello and former police Lts. Roger Levesque and Alan Alves -- all police department employees around the time Sullivan and Christiansen claim they were excluded from the police chief candidate pool in 1997 because they testified at the MCAD against Alves in a sexual harassment case.
     Christiansen and Sullivan’s attorney, Daniel Clifford, said Alves was then-Selectmen Christopher McCarthy’s and Robert Robideaux’s choice for chief, and claimed the selectmen did not appoint Sullivan or Christiansen as an act of retaliation.
     Christiansen and Sullivan are suing the town for $100,000 to pay for their attorney’s fees and additional money to compensate for wages and promotional opportunities lost and for emotional and stress damages.

More low cost housing coming

May 25, 2003
After 30 years of ducking the regulation, the Boston Housing Authority has begun initiatives to reach federally mandated quotas for handicap accessible units in their publicly funded housing developments.
     The BHA isn't alone in their non-compliance, though. According to a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spokeswoman Christine Foye, New York City, Baltimore and Washington D.C. still don't have enough housing for disabled people.
     "It's not rare for a housing authority of this size and age," to be non-compliant, said Foye this week.
     The 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in federally-assisted programs, requires a percentage of housing authority units to be accessible to people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities and mandates sizes and configurations of public housing units.

Panel decries discrimination against addicted

May 12, 2003
A national policy panel said that people with addictions to alcohol and other drugs face widespread stigma and discrimination in trying to access treatment and achieve recovery, Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly reported April 21.
     According to the Join Together policy-panel report, people with addiction face numerous obstacles in obtaining health insurance, appropriate medical care, employment, public benefits, education and training programs, and housing.
     "We hope the report will raise awareness of the subtle and not-so-subtle effects of legalized discrimination," said Anara Guard, a spokesperson for Join Together. "People in recovery or in treatment should not be subjected to legally imposed barriers based solely on addiction."

Woman convicted in racist plot expresses shame

March 14, 2003
A woman convicted of plotting with her boyfriend to blow up Jewish and black landmarks told a judge at her sentencing hearing she was embarrassed by what she had done.
     "I didn't see how ugly and disturbing my life was when I was living in the middle of it. I had to be ripped out of it," Erica Chase said.
     "I have a lot of shame for everything," she said.
     Chase was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison Thursday. U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner told her: "I hope you do something with the rest of your life to make up for what you came close to doing."
     In July, a federal jury convicted Chase and her former boyfriend, Leo Felton, 32, of several charges, including conspiring to make a bomb in what prosecutors described as a scheme to foment "racial holy war."

OPINION: Segregation in Boston

March 12, 2003
Boston is a city in the midst of change. Whether it be the new convention center, renovations to Fenway park, the revitalization of the newly named SoWa district or the slowly emerging benefits of the Big Dig, Boston is not the city that it was ten, five or even two years ago. Nothing is more representative of this than the city’s changing demographics. Long a bastion of white privilege, New England’s premier city is now over 50 percent minority. And with this demographic shift comes changing expectations for Boston’s future. Boston’s communities of color are looking to finally play a larger role in the city’s decision making processes and if recent political victories like the swearing in of Boston’s first Latino city councilor or the election to the State House of Jeffrey Sanchez over two white opponents are any example, minority residents are finally beginning to get their wish.
     This is not to say that the struggle is over, however. As the first two installments in this series have pointed out, Boston has a long history of segregation and inequality of opportunity – inequality in the economic, educational and political realms – that is unlikely to disappear over night. Furthermore, numerous interviews conducted over the past six months have shown that, recent political victories not withstanding, Boston is still very much perceived by its communities of color as, in the words of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) Executive Director John Barros, “a cold, segregated city" with “an incredibly limited amount of choices."
     The challenge today is to change this perception and to do so in a meaningful way that moves beyond mere public relations campaigns and token reforms and instead cuts straight to the heart of the problems at hand. So the question becomes, what can be done to engender real, lasting change in Boston? How can we be seen once more as the “City Upon a Hill?"

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