Tag Archives: Tree

Family of Flushing Sandy victim officially files suit against city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan and courtesy of Facebook

The family of the Flushing man tragically killed by a felled tree during Sandy has officially filed a lawsuit against the city, legal sources said.

“The city has completely ignored the situation with their trees in Queens,” said the family’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold.

Arnold filed a notice of claim in January on behalf of Tony Laino, 29, who is considered the storm’s first New York City victim.

He was pinned under a tree that ripped through his second-floor bedroom on October 29, police said.

“Around the corner from where this happened, someone else was killed last week,” said Arnold, referring to the pregnant woman recently killed by a tree in Kissena Park.

The attorney said the Lainos fought in vain for at least a decade to get the towering threat in front of their house removed.

She told The Courier the city tree was “overgrown, rotten and improperly pruned” and fell when it was confronted by predicted 80 miles per hour hurricane winds.

The victim’s parents, Carol and Robert Laino, and one of his two brothers, Nicholas Laino, are now suing for emotional, mental distress and monetary damages, including funeral and burial expenses, according to the claim.

“Let’s hope this lawsuit saves at least one other mother from the torment that Carol Laino is experiencing because of the unnecessary loss of her child,” Arnold said.

The amount the family plans to sue for is not yet determined, according to their lawyer.

The city’s Law Department said it was “awaiting a formal copy of the lawsuit and will review it upon receipt.”

“We recognize that the incident involves a loss of life, which is tragic,” said department spokesperson Elizabeth Thomas.

 

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Family of Sandy’s first victim to sue city


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan/Laino photo courtesy of Facebook

The family of the Flushing man tragically killed by a felled tree during Sandy plans to sue the city after they said they fought in vain for at least a decade to get the towering threat removed, legal sources said.

A notice of claim has been filed on behalf of Tony Laino, 29, who was pinned under a tremendous tree that ripped through his bedroom in the upper left portion of his two-story home at 47-34 166th Street on October 29.

Laino, considered the storm’s first New York City victim, was pronounced dead at approximately 7 p.m., police said.

“Tony Laino was unnecessarily killed by a tree that didn’t belong there,” said the family’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold. “It shouldn’t have been planted there to begin with. It was overgrown, rotten and improperly pruned.”

Arnold said these fatal factors caused the tree to fall when it was confronted by predicted 80 miles per hour hurricane winds.

“The city knew about everything years before it happened,” she said.

The victim’s parents, Carol and Robert Laino, and one of his two brothers, Nicholas Laino, are gearing up to sue the city for emotional, mental distress and monetary damages, including funeral and burial expenses, according to the notice of claim obtained by The Queens Courier.

New York City and its Parks Department were “grossly negligent, wanton, reckless, purposeful and/or breached their duties,” which led to Laino’s “wrongful and untimely death,” the claim said.

Family and neighbors said the disaster could have been averted if the city listened to their numerous complaints made over a decade about the enormous tree looming over the Lainos’ home.

“I’ve been telling them to take this tree down for 20 years,” said Bobby Laino, Tony’s other brother, who lived apart from his family and who is not listed as a claimant.

According to Arnold, the Lainos’ house deed shows the tree was on city, not private, property.

The Parks Department directed comment to the city’s Law Department, which said officials would evaluate the new claim.

“We recognize that this incident involves a loss of life, which is tragic,” department spokesperson, Elizabeth Thomas, said in a statement.

The amount the family plans to sue for was not yet determined, Arnold said.

Laino was the youngest of three brothers and a worked as a driver for Ace Party & Tent Rental, his friends said.

“[The family is] heartbroken,” Arnold said. “They’re beyond heartbroken.”

 

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Friends, brother remember Flushing man killed during Hurricane Sandy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A Flushing man was crushed to death by a tree that crashed into his home Monday night during Hurricane Sandy, police said.

Tony Laino, 29, was pinned in his bedroom at around 7 p.m. on October 29, police said.

The tree ripped through the upper left portion of the two-story home at 47-34 166th Street, according to neighbors.

“The mother came outside screaming,” said Howard Senior, who lives across the street. “There were trucks, lights, all sorts of emergency vehicles. It was a mob scene. Somebody went upstairs, but there was no noise from the room. They didn’t hear a thing. It just crushed him.”

Another neighbor, who did not want to give her name, said the victim’s mother ran down the street and rang her doorbell that night asking for help.

“He was just pinned underneath the tree. There was nothing that could be done,” she said. “The poor mother was helpless. It took a very long time to even try and get in there — that’s how big the tree was.”

The collapse rendered the rest of the house unstable, the neighbor said, adding that emergency responders pulled out “very quickly.”

“The winds were blowing. It was just terrifying,” she said. “It’s just a tragedy.”

Laino lived with his parents and one of two brothers, neighbors and friends said. There were no other reported injuries in the home.

A man who identified himself only as Laino’s brother wept outside the scene on Tuesday morning.

“He was an amazing person,” he said. “He always wanted to help people. He was a great man.”

Neighbors and an overwhelming outpouring of Facebook friends remembered Laino — the youngest of three brothers and a driver for Ace Party & Tent Rental — as an idol to kids on the block and a funny, cheerful person.

“Although my heart is heavy, I’ll never forget how you made me smile,” friend Deirdre Mooney posted on his Facebook wall Tuesday morning. “I hope you’re one of [the] first faces I see on the other side.”

Danielle Esposito wrote about how Laino “always made me feel happy and beautiful and endlessly made me laugh with his antics.”

“Honestly have no idea how we are going to do this,” she said.

Friend Adam Lombardi told the Courier Laino was a “go-getter, always looking to improve himself.”

“I think I speak for the entire neighborhood when I say it’s a tragic loss and he’s going to be missed,” he said.

Family and neighbors said the tragedy could have been averted. The Lainos tried time and time again to get the city to remove the towering threat, they said.

“I’ve been telling them to take this tree down for 20 f—–g years,” Laino’s brother said.

The Parks Department directed comment to the city’s joint information center, which did not immediately respond.

Senior said the tree was “too big, too dangerous” as he watched it sway during the storm.

“It’s a solid tree, but it started to rock,” he said. “I said ‘Son of a gun, that’s going to come down.’”

Little Neck neighbors want problem tree removed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Neighbors in Little Neck say a rotted tree rooted on a popular pathway is on its last leg and poses a danger to pedestrians passing beneath its falling limbs.

“I walk on the street. I’m so afraid of walking under this tree that I make a detour,” said Vicky Cosgrove, 61, pointing to a problematic maple at 48-03 Marathon Parkway. “It’s very dangerous.”

According to Cosgrove, the tree is hollow inside and has a number of dying or already dead branches, especially on one long arm that looms over her neighbor’s front yard, where a three year old often plays. The threatening timber, Cosgrove said, is also situated on a sidewalk where many J.H.S. 67 students venture to and from the school located less than half a mile away.

“I’d hate to see a branch come down and kill a kid,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Nahid Neysani, 56, who lives in the house in front of the tree, said it was once flanked by two other trees of the same poor condition. They were removed, she said, after a few branches came down on her fence and made noticeable dents.

Still, she said she was told by the city the last tree standing on her street was not a problem.

“They’re not rushing anything,” she said. “If we have crazy wind or storms, maybe the branches will break.”

Cosgrove said she filed multiple reports to 3-1-1 and even placed calls to higher ups in the Parks Department out of frustration, although her efforts were in vain. According to a recent 3-1-1 inspection report dated June 6 of this year, the Department of Parks and Recreation inspected the tree “but the condition was not found.” The service request was also listed “closed” with no planned further updates.

“I’m no arborist, but to say this tree was inspected and no conditions were found — I don’t believe them,” Cosgrove said. “Are they blind? I was livid. Nothing gets done with the city. They tell us, ‘If you see something, say something.’ When we do, we are treated with contempt.”

But the agency changed its tune soon after The Courier reached out for more information at the end of June.

A Parks Department spokesperson said after the city tree was inspected last week, it was determined to be “in poor health” and will be removed within the next 30 days. The tree will not be felled immediately though, the spokesperson said, because it is still alive and not split.

“I’m a tree hugger. I love trees, but you have to maintain them,” Cosgrove said. “Sure, you can’t help everything. If a tornado came tomorrow and a tree hit you on the head, some things can’t be helped. But this is an accident waiting to happen.”

City trees are inspected and pruned on a block-by-block basis in a portion of each community board every year, a Parks spokesperson said.

 

Ozone Park couple says unstable tree unsafe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Hurricane Irene may be a thing of the past, but one Ozone Park couple says they live in constant fear of what the summer storm left behind.

David and Lillian Hughes told The Courier that they’re worried a strong wind may topple an 80-foot unstable tree outside their home on 107th Street.

“The tree is very large, and it’s going to fall at one point when the wind hits it in the right way. We don’t know when that’s going to happen, and we’re worried,” David said. “If that tree comes into the house, it’s going to smash the whole house. It could cave in and kill somebody.”

Residents since 1980, David, 62, and his wife Lillian, 55, first noticed that the tree was unsteady immediately after Hurricane Irene. David called 9-1-1 and was told it was not an emergency. He then called 3-1-1 several times and reported the situation to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

“The curb cracked, and I actually saw it going up and down about two inches. The dirt around the tree was also going up and down at the same time. The entire tree — the roots, the trunk, and the branches — was wobbling and swaying back and forth toward the street and toward my house. I got alarmed because I thought that at any second the tree could collapse,” he said.

David said that if the tree fell, it would either fall onto their house or go the other direction and knock out the power lines across the street.

He said he’s reached out to the police, to the Parks Department, to Assemblymember Michael Miller, and now to the press. But despite constantly being vigilant in the matter, David said he’s reached a dead end.

“Almost two months have gone by now, and nothing has been done. I don’t want to live like this,” he said. “I know I can’t legally try to take down the tree myself, so I can’t do anything about it. On the other hand, if the Parks Department doesn’t do anything, what am I supposed to do — wait until the tree falls and then say ‘Well, I told you so?’ That’s kind of a backwards way of doing things.”

The Parks Department said the Hughes family last filed a report on August 28. The tree was deemed healthy following an inspection on August 31, according to spokesperson Trish Bertuccio.

Bertuccio said the tree could be checked again, but the Hughes would have to file a formal request.

“It looks healthy, but the fact of the matter is the root system is not healthy. It’s not strong enough to hold the tree up,” David said. “It’s not a question of the tree itself. It’s a question of the root system that supports the tree. I can’t X-ray the ground, but these are the facts that make the difference. I pray something is done before it’s too late.”

Neighbor Francisco Rivera said he witnessed the tree swaying after Hurricane Irene and is aware of the possible danger.

“It’s already moving,” he said. “If another wind is strong enough, who knows what kind of damage can be done — and then what? Everybody is going to feel sorry.”