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Hunters Point Suffering from a Lack of Doctors

3-year old Emma Lamberto-Kelley gets a checkup at Tribeca Pediatrics
3-year old Emma Lamberto-Kelley gets a checkup at Tribeca Pediatrics
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

LONG ISLAND CITY —  Tribeca Pediatrics' move into Hunters Point three weeks ago was greeted by relief from parents desperate for health care for their kids.

Luciana Lamberto-Kelley, a mother of 3-year old Emma and 21-month old Anna, was so excited she went to the facility’s opening on Vernon Boulevard and 47th Road.

She and other parents in the neighborhood welcomed the new health center in a neighborhood where, they said, the amount of medical care lagged behind booming population numbers.

“There are so many kids in this neighborhood,” said Lamberto-Kelley, who works in media. She moved to the area three years ago and until recently shuttled her family to the Tribeca Pediatrics branch on the Upper East Side, a trip that required at least one subway transfer.

“Traveling to Manhattan with two kids really wasn’t easy,” she noted.

Moms with children like Lamberto-Kelley are filling the streets of Hunters Point, an increasingly residential neighborhood where the population exploded in the last decade, spurred by an influx of new high-rises along the waterfront, just across the river from the United Nations.

Yet, residents say, many services, like doctors' offices, have not been able to keep pace with the residential buildings that have popped up.

“Considering that there is an expanding residential population, there is absolutely going to be more of a need for specialty healthcare services,” said Dan Miner, senior vice president at Long Island City Partnership, a local advocacy group.

About 40 new residential developments have been built in Long Island City since 2000, according to Long Island City Partnership.

More than a dozen more are currently under construction or in the planning stages. Some of those developments have as many as 700 units.

According to the 2010 Census data, there are approximately 11,000 residents — a radical change from the 6,000 who lived there in 2000.

For most of the two decades before the boom, there was only one doctor in the area. Now there are five serving the Hunters Point population — three family practitioners, a psychiatrist and a pediatric urologist. There are also just two dentist offices and one chiropractor.

Arthur Rosenfield, a local activist and founder of OurLIC.com, says that he has been trying to bring more doctors to the area.

“I’ve been advocating for this for two years and have met with several hospital administrators and small doctor facilities,” he said. “But there was no interest" because, he said, healthcare providers did not seem to recognize that Long Island City is a growing but underserved market.

Residents said there are a variety of specialists missing from the area including dermatologists, orthopedic surgeons, eye and ear doctors, neurologists and cardiologists. There is also no OB/GYN office and no diagnostic center.

Dr. Folake Oshodi, a psychiatrist who works at QueensWest Health & Wellness, said if she has to send a patient to another specialist, in many cases she must refer that person to a doctor in a different borough.

“There is a lot of room for other specialties to really make Long Island City comprehensive,” she said.

With the closest hospitals being Mt. Sinai in Astoria and New York Hospital and NYU in Manhattan, many say there is a need for an urgent care facility in the neighborhood.

It became a problem for one resident, Lenore Lofredo, 65, who did not have a place to go to when she developed a 102-degree fever a couple of months ago.

“There should definitely be more options available in this neighborhood,” says Lofredo, who usually goes to New York Hospital on the Upper East Side for her regular check-ups and treatment.

Tribeca Pediatrics opened its new location because of popular demand, its representatives said.

“Our patients from Long Island City [who were] going to our locations in Williamsburg and the Upper East Side were always saying, 'When are you going to open an office in Long Island City?,'” said Dr. Chris Chiaviello, who works as a pediatrician at the Hunters Point location.

The office, currently open three days-a-week, initially planned to open full time in the fall, but the demand was so great that it now plans to open five days-a-week on June 18th.

When Dr. Esperanza Angeles moved her practice from Greenpoint to the neighborhood in 1979, she was the only doctor practicing internal medicine in Hunters Point, she said.

“One of my patients who lived in Long Island City kept telling me to move here, because there was no doctor’s office at all,” she said. “At that time, I didn’t even know where Long Island City was.”

But eventually she opened her office there, serving primarily an older population of Italian-Americans living in the industrial area.

“In the ‘80s,” she said, “their children started moving out from the neighborhood, and the older generation started passing away.”

But now, as the neighborhood’s population has boomed, she says she “is ready to retire.”

When Angelo Ippolito, a chiropractor, opened his office on Vernon Boulevard in 2001, the changes were just about to hit the neighborhood. He said at first he still "had to rely mostly on patients that saw him at his previous location in Astoria.”

But when residential construction picked up, he said he decided to open QueensWest Health & Wellness, a center which offers both family medicine and services like chiropractics, physical therapy and acupuncture.

Ippolito has since moved his practice to another location in Hunters Point, but QueensWest, located on 50th Avenue, has since grown, and currently has two family doctors as well as some specialists, including a psychiatrist and speech pathologist.

To help alleviate medical shortages, two facilities specializing in helping underserved populations have also moved to the area.

In 2006, The Floating Hospital — a non profit Community Health Clinic offering affordable family, dental and mental care — moved from Manhattan to Long Island City. 

And in March this year, ICL HealthCare Choices opened a new health care facility on Borden Avenue, which offers services mainly to people who are homeless, elderly, immigrant, low-income, or uninsured.

But residents and local activists say it’s not enough, and that the new population moving to the waterfront has many different needs.

TV technician Drew Camillo, 47, says residents in Long Island City had no choice but to get used to going for treatment to Manhattan or Astoria, but for many people, especially the elderly, it’s a challenge.

“Traveling or getting up and down for people who are sick may be a real problem,” he said.