Push to inspect trees as family mourns pregnant woman killed in Kissena Park

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Aleksandar Dikov and his wife, Yingyi Li, snapped this happy photo together in October 2012. Li, six months pregnant, was killed by a falling tree in Kissena Park.THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
Aleksandar Dikov and his wife, Yingyi Li, snapped this happy photo together in October 2012. Li, six months pregnant, was killed by a falling tree in Kissena Park.

The city is inspecting the felled tree that killed a 30-year-old expectant mother in Flushing as her family makes arrangements to mourn her.

“They’re just distraught,” said attorney Anthony Como, who spoke on behalf of the grieving family. “Right now, we’re just trying to investigate to find out what happened, how something like this could occur, and obviously to get some answers at this point.”

Yingyi Li, who was six months pregnant with a baby girl, was sitting on a bench in Kissena Park around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 4 when a fallen tree struck her from behind, police said.

The 50-foot oak tree snapped eight feet above the ground, city officials said.

The Parks Department said it was thoroughly examining the tree’s condition. It was 70 years old, said spokesperson Arthur Pincus.

Expert arborists who are unaffiliated with the department said the oak, which typically can live for 400 years, had signs of ongoing decay and was hollow in the base.

“The wood strength that is needed to keep the tree upright was no longer there,” said Carsten Glaeser, a Flushing-based tree consultant. “If the wood is no longer there, then the tree falls. All it takes is a little force and the tree keels over.”

Li had been married to Aleksandar Dikov, 20, for a little more than a year, their lawyer and neighbors said.

“The two of them were always together, very happy,” said Christina Leib. “She was very loved.”

The pair was living in Flushing with Dikov’s parents, who were too heartbroken to speak to reporters.

“They lost their first and only grandchild,” Como said.

Li owned her own clothing business in Flushing, the attorney said. She met Dikov, a military man, at the Flushing YMCA.

“She was a beautiful girl, so beautiful,” said neighbor Farida Yesmin. “I’m so upset. I can’t even explain.”

Congressmember Grace Meng said she intervened with Customs and Border Protection to allow Li’s father, Zhong Liang Li, to fly in from China.

His American visa was set to expire while he was traveling, Meng said.

Li’s uncle and a family friend were also arranged to enter the country.

At least 13 people have been injured or killed by city trees in the last two months, said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.

The Parks Department said there were six zone inspections this year in Kissena Park, including one in June. There are more than two million trees on city streets and inside parks.

The department is in the process of contracting an independent tree consultant to review all tree management procedures, a spokesperson said.

Croft and State Senator Tony Avella said the city should suspend its Million Tree Program and use the funds for tree maintenance.

“These tragic accidents can no longer be thought of as ‘acts of God,’” Avella said.

 

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