Falling Tree Kills New Yorker, Many Point to Budget Cuts

by Connor Ryan
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Tree.

Lanterna, Flickr

Advocates say 12 New Yorkers have been injured in the past two months as a result of falling trees and branches.

As night began crawling across Sunday's clear sky, Yingyi Li, a 30-year-old Queens resident, was taking in the cool summer air on a bench in Kissena Park in Queens.
 
Then, suddenly -- out of nowhere -- a crack. A 70-year-old, 50-foot-tall oak tree came crashing down on top of her. Li was pronounced dead soon after the impact at a nearby hospital. Reports have indicated she was pregnant.
 
Earlier that same day, another woman was injured by a falling branch in Brooklyn. 
 
Amid tall skyscrapers, millions of trees sit along streets and in parks -- adding a touch of greenery to the otherwise concrete jungle that is New York City. But how many might pose a threat to those of us trying to soak in a summer's night outdoors?
 
Holly Leicht, executive director of advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, says slashed budget cuts since 2008 have led to dangerously poor tree care across New York City.
 
"Last year, we were part of a big advocacy effort to try to get money back in -- it had actually been zeroed out all together, tree pruning and tree care," Leicht said. "Two million dollars were added in last year's budget, which was huge step, but we are still playing catch-up."
 
While running to be the next Queens borough president, State Senator Tony Avella is calling for Mayor Bloomberg to suspend the Million Tree Program, which aims to plant one million trees in New York City over the next decade. Avella says the $100,000 that goes to that program each year should be put toward the care of trees that already exist.
 
"The city is allocating but a fraction of what is actually necessary," Avella said by telephone. "I don't understand how the mayor and the commissioner of the department of parks and recreation can just ignore the fact that people are continually injured. It's negligence -- I think it's criminal negligence."

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