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Kissena inspections don’t add up

Kissena inspections don’t add up
By Joe Anuta

In the eight months before a tree fell and killed a pregnant woman in Kissena Park in early August, the city Parks Department appears to have conducted fewer park inspections than authorities claimed immediately after the accident — and one of those assessments lasted only 11 minutes, documents show.

Ying Yi Li, a 30-year-old Flushing resident who was six months’ pregnant, was sitting on a bench overlooking Kissena Lake Aug. 4 when a 50-foot-tall oak tree suddenly toppled over, crushing the woman and her unborn child to death, according to authorities.

In the wake of the tragedy, Parks said in a statement released to the press that it had inspected the area six times in 2013, with the most recent observation occurring in June.

But in response to a Freedom of Information Law request filed by TimesLedger Newspapers for the half dozen inspections, Parks only provided paperwork for four.

The department, responsible for the maintenance of 2 million trees inside the city’s parks and 600,000 more along streets in the five boroughs, did not respond by press time to explain the discrepancy.

The first two inspections occurred at the beginning and end of March, and found all the conditions acceptable in an area of Kissena Park listed as Zone 2, which includes the area where Li died, although the inspector did identify a low-hanging limb. There was no specific reference to the tree that struck Li in any of the reports.

One of the inspections lasted for about an hour, while the duration of the other was not noted.

But what appears to be the same employee returned to Kissena April 13 and spent only 11 minutes looking over the same zone.

“We believe that the inspections, particularly cumulatively, constituted an appropriate review of the zone,” Parks spokesman Arthur Pincus said in a statement.

The exact boundaries of the inspection area were not clear. The entire park is 237 acres and divided into six zones.

Zone 2 covers the areas east and west of the park’s tennis courts from Bowne Street to the corners of Rose and Oak avenues, according to the documents.

On the 11-minute inspection report, the Parks employee noted conditions including a half-hollow tree southwest of the tennis courts and potholes on the path near one of the staircases leading down to the lake.

On May 22, a third inspection was performed for an hour. An inspector found one dead tree overlooking Rose Avenue to the east of the tennis courts.

Several photos attached to the report show that leafless tree standing out from its verdant counterparts.

The inspector also characterized the lawn as overgrown in 75 percent of the area, and took photos of a ruler to illustrate the length of the grass, the report states.

Li was married to Aleksandar Dikov and lived with his parents in a Parsons Boulevard apartment.

Li’s family is planning on suing the city for negligence.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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