Page 8 - New England Condominium May 2021
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 -MAY 2021  
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the condo wouldn’t share in the responsibil- 
ity. Needless to say, the revolt was squashed as  
quickly as it began. 
Along the same lines, Wollman relates the  
circumstances  in  a  luxury,  12-unit  condo- 
minium in Manhattan. He says that there was  
such a divergence in opinion about opening  
the building’s amenities that he opted to go  
unit to unit and speak to each owner sepa- 
rately, rather than just the board. He stressed  
in each conversation that despite the small  
overall number of units and residents in the  
building, the risks were still too high, and that  
the best option was to wait a bit longer to open  
things up until more widespread vaccination  
reduces both the risk and the tension around  
the issue. He is in all probability correct—and  
no matter what one’s politics, we can all agree  
that the sooner COVID-19 is in the rearview,  
the better.  
A J Sidransky is a staff writer/reporter with  
New England Condominium, and a published  
we put into it?’ If unit-owners are thinking  
short-term, or even medium-term, and they  
don’t believe the changes required to live with  
COVID-19 are permanent, they are less likely  
to institute rules changes that are effectively  
life changes, nor to spend the money to do it.” 
The other factor DiNocco points to is  
that “people don’t want to be around others  
who aren’t in their bubble—so why would we  
make a decision for their community allow- 
ing something that they wouldn’t do them- 
selves right now?” He expects a lot of people  
to say that keeping amenities closed or limit- 
ing their use is no big deal for now, and to be  
willing to accept these decisions. “There isn’t  
much interest in reopening,” he stresses. “I’ve  
only received one request to reopen the gym.” 
Lastly, possibly most importantly—and  
sadly—unlike any such crisis before it, the  
COVID-19 pandemic has been starkly politi- 
cized. Numerous professionals contacted for  
this article stressed that the decisions about  
reopening a particular community’s ameni- 
ties and the rules that will apply to it are often  
reflective of the political culture of that com- 
munity. There are those communities where  
mask wearing is required and those where it  
is rejected, regardless of expert recommenda- 
tions or evidence that masking greatly reduc- 
es the spread of the disease.  
One manager says, “It’s like ‘Invasion of  
the Body Snatchers.’ I don’t recognize some  
of these people whom I’ve known for years.  
People actually put their politics before their  
own good.” 
Many pros say the biggest pushback  
against masks or continued amenity closures  
may be in over-55 communities, where resi- 
dents—more and more of whom are finally  
getting vaccinated—want to return to some  
kind of normal, and are campaigning for  
reopening. While that may be understand- 
able, says Masullo, “No senior who hasn’t  
been vaccinated should get within six feet of  
anyone else. Many are having difficulty get- 
ting vaccinated. We will help residents get  
appointments in senior communities to do  
vaccines in clubhouses, etc. I tell them that  
if you’re managing a senior community, you  
should not open amenities. It could mean  
millions of dollars in lawsuits. Don’t open the  
pool until the science tells us it’s safe.” 
Which brings us back to the matter of li- 
ability. One manager describes a situation  
where the board of a particular community  
was dominated by three attorneys who resid- 
ed in the building. Early on, they implement- 
ed a very strict policy of mask wearing, social  
distancing, and closure of amenities. Many  
residents were unhappy with the policy— 
some quite vocally—but these attorney board  
members told the complaining residents that  
if they disregarded the rules, liability for any  
damages resulting from their disobedience  
would fall squarely on them individually— 
continued from page 6 
Cohen goes on to explain that there are  
seven principles of Universal Design: equi- 
table use, flexibility in use, simple and in- 
tuitive use, perceptible information, toler- 
ance for error, low physical effort, size and  
space for approach and use. Taken together  
and applied, these principles ensure that an  
environment can be used in the most in- 
dependent and natural way, in the widest  
possible range of situations, by the broad- 
est array of users, without special adapta- 
tion, modification, or specialized solutions.  
They can be applied to evaluate existing  
designs, to guide new ones, or to educate  
designers and consumers.  
Jonathan Baron, principal of Manhat- 
tan-based Jonathan Baron Interiors, works  
with clients across the country, including  
New England, and explains the movement  
in simple terms. “The concept came out of  
architects’ and interior designers’ concerns  
about meeting the needs of everyone, in- 
cluding mildly to severely disabled people.  
Something as simple as a cane or walker  
would have access to any space from a  
kitchen or bath to common areas such as  
lobbies and hallways. In the early 1990s this  
became a trend. It was the moment where  
the design industry took on the moral and  
ethical responsibility of this challenge. We  
weren’t going to design just anything any- 
more. It’s about ‘comfortable’ use. Form fol- 
lows function. It is a commitment to meet  
the needs of everyone.” 
Enter the ADA 
Universal Design is a movement—not a  
federal statute or mandatory code. The ADA,  
on the other hand, is the law. Baron explains  
that the Americans with Disabilities Act was  
passed and signed into law in July 1990 by  
then-President George H.W. Bush. ADA  
compliance enforcement followed, with fail- 
continued from page 1 
ure to meet the new requirements resulting in  
costly legal action. Failing to make spaces and  
facilities accessible to those with disabilities  
was considered discriminatory.   
Of course, the tenets of Universal Design  
incorporate the same principles and values  
enshrined in the ADA— and according to  
Cohen, architects and designers integrate  
Universal Design and the ADA requirements  
all the time. “We use codes as a guide for com- 
pliance with agencies having jurisdiction but  
make the process specific to the location and  
client,” he says. “It is not a one-size-fits-all ap- 
proach. We start by understanding the users  
and asking questions about what they find  
most challenging. We talk to residents as well  
as staff. Some of this happens by asking, and  
some by observing. 
“The design process itself is interactive and  
layered, and takes many factors into consid- 
eration,” Cohen continues, “including things  
like spatial clearances and mobility impedi- 
ments. Ease of navigating the space; differ- 
entiating between public, private, service and  
emergency egress, and finding direction; an  
understanding of the varied characteristics  
and abilities of users’ mobility, sensory, cogni- 
tive, as well as what is familiar to them; appro- 
priate selections of flooring finishes, lighting,  
surface finishes on ceilings, walls, floors, and  
transaction surfaces to avoid glare, slippery  
floor surfaces. You also address acoustics and  
palette, to provide balanced contrast in light/ 
dark, hue, and pattern. It’s also important to  
address the things that aren’t as apparent as  
disabilities, such as mental health issues and  
cognitive issues, and to respond to neurodi- 
versity. Appropriate furniture and selections  
to accommodate a range of sizes and abilities.  
Arms on chairs, seating height and depth.” 
Baron illustrates how ADA considerations  
affect decisions about and the execution of  
Universal Design projects. “There are codes  
that determine how space must function to  
continued on page 9 
“Universal Design  
is the design and  
composition of an  
environment so that  
it can be accessed,  
understood, and used  
to the greatest extent  
possible by all people  
regardless of their age,  
size, and ability. It is a  
fundamental process   
of good design.” 
            —Eric Cohen
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