Dr. Charles Lombardi, who runs the facility at 32-07 Francis Lewis Boulevard, first noticed three weeks ago that the Parks Department dug two tree pits into the sidewalk in front of his building.
The foot doctor has since vehemently opposed the city’s decision, pointing to access and mobility issues for his patients who understandably sometimes have trouble walking.
“It’s not just the podiatry practice, we do limb salvage,” he said. “People have one limb and they’re walking on crutches or have to be wheeled in on wheelchairs. There is also a physical therapist in here and an orthotist who does prosthetic work.”
Lombardi said he can already anticipate patients coming in on crutches and falling over. He’s also concerned that once it snows, it will be difficult to clear the sidewalks. Throw in a fire hydrant between the two trees, and it will be a difficult space to navigate.
“It seems a ludicrous place to put a tree,” he said. “It’s regulation without common sense.”
The doctor notified State Senator Tony Avella, who noted that up and down Francis Lewis Boulevard there are “plenty of places” to put new trees without interfering with the medical practice.
“If you look at the median on Francis Lewis Boulevard, a little further down where it’s wider, there are vacant tree pits that have been left open for years,” Avella said. “Why aren’t we putting the trees in the tree pits that already exist rather than influencing this medical practice?
“I see the type of patients he has, which obviously have foot problems and mobility issues,” he added. “To hinder their access to a medical practice is totally unacceptable.”
Avella had already contacted the Parks Department and spoke to the borough commissioner, whose team did a site review and are proceeding with the plan. The state senator pledged to write to the Parks Department’s commissioner to review it again.
“There’s no sense to this,” he said. “I’m questioning the logic behind this and asking that they not do it.”
A Parks spokesperson said hearing from Avella last month, their forestry team reassessed the conditions, and found that the tree beds are not obstructing any entrances to Dr. Lombardi’s practice.
The tree beds would be spaced within Parks guidelines, and the sidewalk width is beyond ADA requirements.
“Parks follows a thorough survey process to determine appropriate planting sites,” the spokesperson said. “This process accounts for existing street conditions and potential conflicts that could interfere with the healthy growth of a tree.”