Tree Branch Falls Critically Injuring Woman at Washington Square Park Last Night

The woman was visiting from Virginia and is in critical – but stable – condition

Park trees last inspected in Summer 2017

A tree limb at Washington Square Park detached and fell Monday night (5/20) seriously injuring a 55 year old woman, Penny Chang, who was visiting New York City from Virginia. Reports vary on exact time and whether she was walking through the park or sitting on a park bench but the tragic incident definitely occurred last night. The tree is located in the Western section of the park.

After initial news reports, the New York City Parks Department surveyed the London plane tree from which the branch fell this morning and determined the tree has a fungal infection and was also under watered; the combination of which appears to have lead to the tree’s limb detaching.

Initial reports referred to the falling limb as an “accident” which I’m not really sure how it would be otherwise.

NBC News
Washington Square 2017 tree inspection

Park’s Trees Inspected in 2017; Did Redesign Construction Harm Washington Square Trees?

In summer of 2017, Washington Square Park Blog wrote of the inspection of the park’s 270 trees. At that time, this tree was considered to be in “fair” condition.

More than a decade ago, when the Bloomberg Administration’s controversial redesign plans for Washington Square Park were revealed, one of the lawsuits which ensued aimed to stop the potential detriment to the park’s trees from the construction. Whether this was a contributing factor is not known at this time.

Geoffrey Croft from NYC Park Advocates is interviewed in the NBC piece and states that there is not enough attention being paid to New York City park trees and safety inspections by our elected officials.

From The New York Post:

The Washington Square Park tree that dropped a 35-foot limb Monday night — striking a tourist and critically injuring her — may have a fungal disease that caused the branch to drop, the city said Tuesday.

The 55-year-old woman from Virginia was in the Manhattan park Monday night when the giant limb came crashing down, police said.

She suffered a fractured skull and spine, as well as a laceration to the back of her head, according to cops. She remains at Bellevue Hospital.

On Tuesday, the city Parks Department conducted a preliminary inspection of the London plane tree and found that it “shows signs of having Massaria, a fungus, which may have caused the limb to fall,” an agency spokeswoman said.

Massaria is most often found in London plane trees and is tied to stress and lack of water, the Parks Department said.

According to the agency, the tree in question was last inspected in July 2017 and before that in November 2015. It was last pruned in August 2017.

The Parks Department had deemed the tree in “fair” condition with a “low” risk.

At Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy — which has been given license to run that “public” space — came “under fire” when a “massive Elm” tree fell on a family in August of 2017.

In 2017, WSP Blog asked the Parks Department how often the surveying of trees occurs, and the agency spokesperson replied;

“This is a standard Forestry inspection completed every few years to ensure the safety of park goers.”

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Other coverage:

NBC News 4 New York: Woman Injured by Falling Tree Limb

CBS News New York: Tourist Critically Injured After Being Hit In The Head By Falling Tree Branch In Washington Square Park

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Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

270 Trees in Washington Square Park Underwent Maintenance This Month; 3 Felled, Removed Due to Poor Health August 23, 2017

Photos #1, 2, 4: NBC
Photo #3: Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

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