Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beloved Parks Worker From Queens Takes Her Life

"She will rest in the shade between a beautiful cherry tree and a maple tree, so she will always be close to different kinds of birds."

Jennifer Kao
Jennifer Kao, 41, Senior Project Manager with the Planning and Parklands Division committed suicide last Wednesday when she tragically jumped off the George Washington Bridge. She was described by a former colleague as a gentle soul.


By Geoffrey Croft 

A beloved parks worker from Forest Hills died last Wednesday after taking her own life.

Jennifer Kao, 41, project manager in the Parklands Division worked at the agency since October 15,  2002. 

"It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Jennifer Kao, Senior Project Manager with the Planning and Parklands Division,"   the Parks Department said in a broadcast email sent to employees yesterday.

"Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time,"

Former Assistant Parks Commissioner Jack T. Linn decribed her as not a typical aggressive or ambitious New Yorker.

"She was a quiet, competent presence at the Arsenal for years,"  said Mr. Linn.  

"She was a gentle soul. It's all overwhelming," he said.

She was laid to rest this morning at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, NY Queens.  

"She will rest in the shade between a beautiful cherry tree and a maple tree, so she will always be close to different kinds of birds,"  the agency said in a message.

Jennifer’s family relayed that Jennifer loved flowers and they may be sent to the funeral home.  But in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to environmental groups, bird/avian welfare groups, and organizations that provide international development and relief.

According to a published report Ms. Kao jumped from the crossing, north of the New York tower on the George Washington Bridge around 11:20 a.m.  on Wednesday.

The NYPD Harbor Unit pulled her body from the Hudson River about 15 minutes later. 

Over the years Jennifer worked on dozens of parks projects including the Shore Parkway Greenway, the Silvercup Studios project, and Elmhurst Gas Tank site in Queens. 

Joshua Laird, former Assistant Commissioner of Planning hired Jennifer into the agency in 2002, he described the loss as a "terrible tragedy," and said he was still in shock. 

"It's so sad. She was a smart, sweet and unassuming person. It's hard to fathom," he said. 

In 2006 Laird nominated Jennifer for Management’s Employee of the Month award for her "steadfastness and dedication," as a Community Coordinator for the Planning Division.

Mr. Laird,  now at the National Park Service said her work at the agency was "essential" and cited many projects she had a hand in such as Hudson River Park,  Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hunter's Point South among others that she had an important role in helping to see them through fruition. 

"She was essential in helping to move along these complicated projects through the environmental review and land use process," Laird said.

Former staffers informed him of the tragedy earlier this week. 

Laird  said he has fond memories of her organizing birthday celebrations and outings for fellow employees.

"A lot of people are feeling the hurt in the agency. It's hard to lose a person like this," he said.

"It's way, way too young."

Read More:

Police identify woman who jumped from George Washington Bridge
NJ Advance Media  - May 08, 2015 - By Noah Cohen

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