Management at an Avenue U Home Depot in Mill Basin has converted their hardware store’s parking lot into a gardening center, forcing senior and disabled shoppers to navigate a challenging maze of planters and fences to reach the entrance.
The prospect of braving the jungle of rubber trees and alocasia was so exhausting for one aging handy man, he’d have had to take a breakhalfway through if it weren’t for his faithful son-in-law.
“My father-in-law actually said it would take him a good 15-20 minutes to get there,” said Peter Consolo, referring to, Mario Bisongno his father by marriage. “He would have to rest along the way!”
Consolo and Bisogno traveled to the big-box hardware store near E. 58th Street seeking electrical supplies on July 30, when they were confronted by an unexpected jungle of consumer plant stuff, which had overtaken numerous parking spaces near the entrance, narrowed the driving lane, and attracted hordes of shoppers, whom the Mill Basin man claimed were using disabled parking spots as ad-hoc loading zones.
When the pair finally found a space, it was at the other end of the lot, and the elderly Bisongno, a World War II veteran who walks with a cane, ultimately decided he was better off waiting in the car while Consolo headed inside to grab the supplies they needed.
“The whole thing was obstructed. They had the parking space near the entrance obstructed. They had it fenced in, you couldn’t access that area. It was like a corral — how were you supposed to get in there?” Consolo riled.
Home Depot is a privately owned business, but Consolo and his father-in-law claimed the hardware store may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law requiring stores to maintain certain accessibility standards, or else face civil suits alleging discrimination against disabled patrons.
An Aug. 1 investigation by this paper discovered several potential violations of the federal disabilities act, including planters blocking all but three handicapped parking spots — lots with over 100 spaces are required to have at least five spots for disabled patrons — along with handicapped spots hedged in by planters, making them too narrow, according to ADA standards.
Consolo and his old man didn’t say whether they planned to sue — but if they do, it wouldn’t be the first time the national retail chain had ran afoul of federal disability laws. The company has been dragged to court on allegations including improperly firing a mentally handicapped employee, failing to provide cashiers with adequate seating, and forbidding a worker suffering irritable bowel syndrome from taking a desperately needed break.
A spokeswoman for Home Depot refuted allegations that the hardware store doesn’t live up to Uncle Sam’s lofty accessibility standards, claiming a review by the hardware store’s in-house legal squad determined that everything was on the up-and-up with the Avenue U store’s new garden center.
“Based on their perspective the parking spot is ADA compliant,” said Christina Cornell.
After this reporter contacted the store’s corporate office seeking comment on July 30, however, Home Depot hastily reorganized it’s garden center, according to Consolo, who admitted the store was easier to access on a subsequent visit.
“When we went back, they had removed the fencing on one side, but it was still an obstacle course,” he said.