Monday, August 6, 2012

Dead Central Park Tree Limb Strikes Man, Family Escapes By Seconds

Lucky Central Park Visitors. George Stathoudakis, wife Roxanne, daughter Stephanie -6, and son Michael, 22 months, and food vendor Kyle Glover on the bench where Mr. Glover was hit by a dead tree branch on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street outside the Park Department's headquarters yesterday morning. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Adovcates) click on image to enlarge.

"We got very lucky," said Mr. Stathoudakis.

On May 27th, a East Harlem woman picnicking on Randall's/Wards Island was almost killed when a 26-foot-long branch struck her on the head, sending the woman to the hospital.

The Parks Department refuses to make tree incident reports publicly available. In the interest of public safety the condition of fallen trees involved in accidents should also be documented and published online.


By Geoffrey Croft

A rotted tree limb came crashing down on Fifth Avenue yesterday striking a man and narrowly missed a 22-month old and a 6 -year-old brother and sister, A Walk In The Park has learned.

The frightening incident happened 50 yards from where 6-month-old Cianna Ricciutti was fatally struck in July 2010 when a tree limb fell on her outside the Central Park Zoo in back of the Parks Department headquarters.

Park bench a few yards away from the Park Department's headquarters where a 32-year-old food vendor was struck by a dead tree limb.

Yesterday morning 32-year-old Kyle Glover was sitting on a park bench making a phone call on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street at 11:15 am when a large dead tree branch fell and hit him.

Mr. Glover said he heard a noise and before he had a chance to move the branch came crashing down and landed on his left shoulder blade, snapping in two. The pieces landed beside the bench.

Witnesses described the dead limb between 10 - 12 feet long, approximately 3- 4 inches in diameter and weighing up to 15 pounds.

"It was dead, completely dead rotted limb," said Mr. Glover. "I don't know how long it was dead but it must have been for a while. It didn't have any leaves on it. It was clearly dead.

I'm out here eight hours a day," he continued. "I was very lucky. If I had leaned back four inches it would have struck me in the head."

Mr. Glover runs Rouge Tomate a sustainable food cart outside of the Parks Department headquarters from the Spring though the Fall. The cart - which opened July 1, 2011, serves burgers, soups, fresh juices, and ice cream and counts many park employees including Commissioner Adrain Benepe - before he announced his resignation - head of the revenue division Betsy Smith and Parks' lawyer Alessandro Olivier as customers.

"It knocked the wind out of me. I was nervous to get up really quickly. After about five minutes I got up. It felt like I got whipped. "

He said he refused medical attention.

"It's sore, " he said four hours after the incident. "But I should be alright."

Kyle said the family sitting beside him - who were customers - had only "one or two seconds earlier" gotten up from the bench when the branch came down.

He said a portion of branch hit the stroller.

"They couldn't have been any closer to getting hit," he said. "They were so lucky. I'm really glad they didn't get hurt. "

For the Stathoudakis family the death of six month-old Cianna Ricciutti who was killed nearby by a fallen branch was not far from their minds.

"It's scary," said George Stathoudakis.

"We got very lucky. We were sitting there seconds, literally two seconds before and we got up. We could have been in the hospital or worse. It was scary."

Mr. Stathoudakis also said he heard the branch crack.

"It happened so quickly. You just never know. That branch could have been a lot bigger. We were lucky."

"I think about all the people who sit there all day long - the families," said Mr. Glover.

"A lot of park employees also sit on that bench.

32-year-old Kyle Glover sitting on the park bench where he was struck. "They put in all this time and resources to plant trees, but what they have to do is put the same amount of time and effort into maintaining them."

I haven't seen workers removing as many dead tree branches as last year. They used to go up in the cherry pickers. I just don't see that as much."

He said it could have been a lot worse and feels fortunate in a way that the branch was as dead as it was because of the way it broke a part on him.

"I was lucky it was so rotted. If it had contained all that moisture it would have weighed a lot more."

He said after he got up he went to the Arsenal -the Parks' headquarters - and a park security employee called for help.

Kyle said Parks' workers came by and asked him if he was alright and if he needed medical treatment. One employee took the branches away in a small suv.

"What I learned is when I sit down I have to look up to see if there are any leaves on it."

Third Tree Incident

Nature lover Mr. Glover said this was the third recent Incident involving trees in Central Park he was involved with.

On February 25th 2010 he had just gotten off work at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue when he and a friend went for a stroll hoping to enjoy the bucolic snow landscape when they heard a series of crackling noises above in the tree tops. About a hundred and fifty feet away a large branch fell to the ground.

Brooklyn resident Elmaz Qyra, 46, was killed when a 20-foot branch snapped off an American elm tree and came crashing down on him. The father of two had also just gotten off work.

"I felt so horrible for him. He was probably also enjoying the beautiful snow on his way home like us. Just horrible."

Kyle said on October 29, 2011during an ice storm a two hundred pound tree limb crashed along Fifth Ave. across 64th street striking a section of his cart's awning.

"It was blocking traffic. Two of us helped moved it out of the street."

"I've had close calls." he said. "It's unexpected when you're in a park. You're not thinking about this."

He said maintenance was the key.

"They put in all this time and resources to plant trees," he said. "but what they have to do is put the same amount of time and effort into maintaining them."

Rouge Tomate a sustainable food cart, outside the Parks Department headquarters near the entrance to the Central Park Zoo.

Read More:

Close Call
Eyewitness News - August 6, 2012

A Walk In The Park - July 19, 2011

A Walk In The Park - October 7, 2010 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - August 29, 2010

Who's In Charge of Central Park's "Killer Tree"?
A Walk In The Park - June 28, 2010

A Walk In The Park - February 25, 2010

gothamist - May 31, 2010 - By Jen Chung

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