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Why the DOJ is now involved in a small condo quarrel over Charlie Bridge shoes in response to 9/11

A seemingly complex dispute between a Florida condo board and a disabled person. 9/11 Respondent Leaving shoes in front of his door has become so toxic that the federal government has tried to address it.

Charlie Bridge worked for the New York City Department of Sanitation for 35 years, first hitting the sidewalk in 1981 and eventually overseeing night operations in North Brooklyn. On September 11, 2001, Bridge ran across the Brooklyn Bridge to help the World Trade Center when he saw buildings burning. He spent more than 400 days clearing debris at Ground Zero, then sifting through it on Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island – where debris was being sent by truck to victims’ belongings and human remains.

Bridges was later diagnosed with seven health conditions, including upper respiratory problems, gastrointestinal diseases, skin cancer, and PTSD, which federal officials have confirmed are cleaning work at the World Trade Center site. Are related to Sometimes he has difficulty breathing and swallowing, and now he should always have an epi-pen in his hand for emergencies.

When Bridge retired in 2015, he and his wife, Anna, moved to Florida. They plan to spend their golden years peacefully, in the Links South of Harbor Village, the Ponce Inlet Condominium Complex, south of Daytona Beach, where the couple bought an apartment seven years ago. To make sure no troublemakers get inside your home, there are no curtains, no furniture, no pets or carpets of any kind in the bridges.

To avoid unnecessarily exacerbating Charlie’s symptoms, the two began leaving their shoes in the hallway outside their apartment – on a doctor’s advice – to help keep out external allergens such as pollen, mold, dust and grass. Found that can trigger respiratory distress. Their door is several feet from the outer passage, and the shoes were not in a place where they could block anyone’s way.

Shoes at the center of the problem.

Courtesy of Charlie Briggs

Years passed without complaint. Suddenly, in October 2017, the Condo Board issued a “notice of breach of rules” to Bridges, informing them that the building would take legal action if their shoes were not returned within 10 days. What happened next is a clear example of violations of the Fair Housing Act, according to the Justice Department. Who filed a civil lawsuit against the Lynx South Condo Association on October 8. Under the Discrimination Act, the DOJ says, the board should provide adequate housing – such as allowing someone to leave shoes outside their door – so that bridges can be “used and enjoyed” in their home. Equal opportunity.

“I’m not looking for fame or recognition. I’m just trying to make a living,” Bridge, now 67, told the Daily Beast.

In January 2018, the board hit the bridges again after dropping its shoes in the hallway. This time, the Condo Association specifically cited Item No. 4 of the Community Rules, which states: “Personal items such as shoes, chairs, towels, fish cannot be left at your front door. Gary poles, boogie boards, skateboards, etc. Only one door mat and sheet are allowed at your front door.

If the shoes are not removed within a week, the notice warns that building staff will remove them after 48 hours. A week later, Bridges opened his front door and found his shoes missing. He called the police, who came and helped them get their shoes out of the building’s administrative office. The following month, Bridges received another notice for violating the rules to leave his shoes outside his unit. The next day he took off his shoes and took them to the management office. Once again, the couple called the police, who came to their aid to get the shoes back.

This was followed by a letter from a lawyer from the Condo Association, warning them to refrain from leaving their shoes outside the door. If they do not comply, the building will ask them to comply. And that’s when the local authorities talked to Charlie.

The police chief came to my house and said that I could not arrest his officers. [to constantly come and retrieve his shoes]”When a small town police chief comes to your house and asks for kindness, you do what he says,” said Bridge. So I brought my shoes, and my condition worsened.

So Bridges hired a lawyer. In April 2018, his lawyer, Elizabeth Develder, filed a formal request for “reasonable accommodation” to allow Bridges and his wife to leave their shoes outside their unit due to their poor health. They provided documents from Bridge’s medical providers: their doctor recommended not to track “external allergens, chemicals or contaminants” at home due to their health variations, and a physician Ask the assistant to let the bridge out of its shoes so as not to aggravate the problem. Towers are also included. An educational study on shoe-borne pathogens., As well as a letter from the World Trade Center Health Program explaining Charlie’s various illnesses.

Two days later, the Condo Association’s lawyer requested more documents, explaining why accommodation was necessary. “As you can imagine, it’s hard to breathe when your respiratory system is swollen,” Devolder told the Daily Beast. “When your gastrointestinal system becomes inflamed, you can’t eat, you can’t absorb nutrients, it just makes sense to me that you need to stop this inflammation – gastrointestinal and respiratory. Systems are very important. ”

Meanwhile, the head of the condo board regularly parked a double-decker car outside his unit for his family, which had an apology, according to Deolder. “If they’re enforcing a rule that says ‘nothing outside the door’, then why is the board president allowed to do that and the 9/11 worker can’t leave his shoes out?”

Catherine Hurst Miller, head of the Condo Board and the main opponent of the bridge, El Oliyark, and the lawyer representing the Condo Board, The Daily Beast did not respond to requests for comment.

“They say they did not discriminate,” Bridges said. “Well, the federal government says you did.”

Charlie Bridge at the WTC site.

Courtesy Charlie Bridge

Since then, the two sides have been engaged in seemingly never-ending consultations over Bridge’s medical evidence, with Condo’s lawyer claiming that he had a causal relationship between “Mr. Bridge’s shoes and a ‘indefinite allergy or disability’. Condo asked permission from the bridge to inspect and photograph his unit and “checked all shoes and plants inside the unit and balcony,” the complaint states. Certified copies of records, copies of any test results from the unit over the past year, allergens or molds, and “any authentic material, which proves the connection between Mr. Bridge’s documented allergies and the need to keep shoes out.” ”

DeVolder followed up with a letter from Bridge’s allergist, stating, “Although there may or may not be problems with shoes inside, some potential allergens and pesticides can cause severe or fatal respiratory distress or gastritis.” May cause inflammation which is difficult to recover from. All precautions should be taken to avoid all these dangerous consequences. It would be beneficial to manage the storage of shoes outside the house.

Again, Kondo’s lawyer responded by claiming the registrar’s letter, saying “there was no nexus between Mr. Bridge’s allergies or other disabilities and his shoes.”

So Deolder provided another letter from the bridge’s physician, stating that the bridge was “allergic to mold, insects, dust, pollen, trees and grass, all of which could aggravate its condition.” Mainly with breathing and swallowing, but can also affect speech, eating and hearing.

“I’ve been three speech pathologists in the last three years because my voice changes in structure and accent,” Bridges said. “I have difficulty swallowing, sometimes it interferes with my speech. [condo board] Meet, they made fun of me for saying the wrong thing.

Bringing his shoes in puts the bridge “at risk of inflammation, difficulty breathing or swallowing, complete inability to breathe or swallow,” the letter said. Get a chance Bridge’s apartment is open to the public, not the inner hallway – “without the risk of relocating to Mr. Bridge’s residential area.”

Finally, in February 2019, Condo’s legal team responded, claiming that “the doctor’s letter does not specifically link such allergic reactions, especially to the specific substance on his shoes.” ” Lawyers asked if Bridge had hired a doctor or lab to test his shoes, Bridge’s doctor advised him on how to deal with the shoes inside his car, and “If Mr. and Mrs. Bridge have a peer review. There are medical articles that prove this connection. Between Mr. Bridge’s allergies and leaving shoes out, “the government complains.

In April 2019, DeWalder filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), headed by Trump-appointed Ben Carson. HUD Determined whether the Condo Association really discriminated against the bridge., Clearing the way for the DOJ to file its civil complaint. Sources close to the case, who did not want to be named, told the Daily Beast that the condo board began hitting in precise but clear ways.

According to sources, baseless rumors about Burj and his wife began to circulate, and the board stated during meetings how much Burj’s legal measures cost the Kondo Association. Trying to meet them halfway, the bridge began washing its shoes before entering, using a spaghetti in the garage. Soon, the building management removed the spaghetti handle, preventing the bridge from washing away the contaminants from its soles.

“I have to go through a golf course when I walk on the beach, and there are a lot of chemicals on the golf course,” he said.

At the same time, the association was not keeping other residents up to the same standards, according to a building source, who said, The batch leaves, and is never given a notice of infringement.

According to DeWolder, in the fall of 2020, Bridge began to bleed into his stomach, and the muscles around his throat began to contract, making it even harder to swallow. In light of his growing physical discomfort, which was exacerbated by the stress, Develder said he encouraged the Condo Association leadership to “treat Mr. Bridge politely.”

Last month, the condo board allowed the bridge to “temporarily” leave its shoes out, DeWalder said, “until there is a final solution.” Building officials have denied any wrongdoing, and have told DeWalder that they intend to fight a fierce court battle.

“This case has not been brought forward by Mr. Bridges,” DeWalder said, referring to the United States Department of Justice, which considers the violation of the Fair Housing Act so serious that it is in its best interest. The United States will take legal action against the Condo Association. Mr Bridges has no interest in suing an association that will ultimately estimate the cost of litigation, and will ultimately share in the cost. He does not want to do that. But it has run out of housing solutions that are of no value to the association.

Burj, for his part, says he just wants to be alone and says he doesn’t know why the building decided to follow him.

“They keep growing and threatening, more and more,” he said.

The Bridge apartment overlooks the golf course, and overlooks the sea from its balcony. He always intended to retire from Ponce Inlet, because, “It’s different here. And it’s beautiful.”

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