The Central Park Conservancy has been using a program called TreeWorks to determine which trees in the park are in need of attention and care. Trees are tagged with labels like "Priority 1" and "immediate action," and are ideally attended by CPC employees. However, the recent series of injuries and deaths caused by falling tree limbs in the park has sparked an investigation into how well the system works. According to the Post, it doesn't.
One spokesman said the park is still in the process of "implementing" the TreeWorks software, while another said the labels are "simply defaults in the software on a field that is not filled out...It's misleading that those fields are there at all." And sometimes trees are assessed far too late. Roberta Colores-Martinez's skull was crushed by a falling oak branch near the Boathouse in May. In September 2009 the tree was labeled a "Priority 1," but nothing more was done until after the accident.
Spokeswoman Vickie Karp said trees are inspected on a four-year cycle and, "Their standards and upkeep are exceptionally high. Unfortunately, nature is unpredictable, and limbs can fall even from healthy and well-pruned trees." But Alan Shapey, lawyer for the man killed by a falling limb in February, said the CPC isn't qualified to make those assessments. "Caring for trees is one thing. Evaluating them to determine if they pose a hazard to pedestrians is something else entirely and requires a risk assessment by a trained arborist."
According to the Central Park Conservancy data, 11 trees were designated "Priority 1" near the Literary Walk, yet none have been pruned in the past year, and trees near the Central Park Zoo have not been inspected in the past 15 months. Besides the Boathouse accident and the falling limb in February, a 6-month-old infant was killed by a falling branch outside of the Central Park Zoo in June.