Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says the tree branch which fell and killed a 6-month-old baby and left her mother in the hospital on Saturday came from a healthy tree. "The tree limb that fell was in full leaf. There was no evidence to the naked eye looking up at it that it was in any danger of falling," he told WCBS, noting that the tree had been inspected within the last six months.
According to Mayor Bloomberg, there is no one to blame for the killer tree. He told reporters, "It’s very tragic, and trying to assign blame isn’t really something that we should be focusing on." He also added, "Only if you cut down every single tree in the city down to ground level can you guarantee that nothing’s going to fall. Unfortunately, nature works that way."
Tree specialist Bob D'Ambrosio agreed, saying the tree—a Honey Locust—broke because of a phenomenon called a "sudden branch drop." He said, "it happens only when the temperatures are very warm, very hot, a lot of humidity and no wind whatsoever," which were the conditions on Saturday. Bill Logan of Urban Arborists also told the Daily News, "This is one of the most reliable street trees, not very prone to breakage."
But the consensus that it was a freak accident hasn't stopped some park watchdog groups from lambasting tree maintenance. Central Park spends between $600,000 and $1 million a year to care for 23,500 trees, but NYC Park Advocates Geoffrey Croft said, "We don't have enough people inspecting and we don't have people doing basic horticultural maintenance on our trees." Yesterday, workers were out pruning trees near 72nd Street, what the Central Park Conservancy called "routine maintenance."
Last July, a man suffered critical injuries after a rotting tree branch fell on him near West Drive and 63rd Street. In February, a man was killed by a branch at East Drive and 68th Street. And, last month, people were injured by a fallen branch near the Boathouse.