By Della Hasselle
CENTRAL PARK — The city is still trying to determine who is responsible for maintaining the trees in Central Park two days after a branch fell and killed a 6-month-old baby girl and critically injured her mother.
"This was a tragedy,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, the New York Post reported. "The limb was healthy and had leaves on it. Why it fell is under review.”
Six-month-old Gianna Ricciutti was killed Saturday by a large branch that fell from a tree onto her and her mother. Her father Mike Ricciutti, 41, of Union City, was snapping a picture of Gianna with her mother when the leafy green limb fell on them near the sea lion exhibit. Mother Karla DelGallo, 33, is in stable condition with a head injury at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell.
There is a debate on who is accountable for maintenance of the tree between the Central Park Conservancy, the organization that generally manages the park’s 26,000 trees, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is considered to be in charge of the maintenance and operation of the Central Park Zoo.
Neither organization has commented, other than to express condolences and say that investigations are underway.
The conservancy spends more than $600,000 annually on tree maintenance and Park officials have said it is impossible to ensure the safety of every tree in the park, New York Times reported.
"It is impossible to prevent this completely,” Henry J. Stern, a former city parks commissioner, told the Times.
Gianna's death is just one of a string of accidents relating to falling tree branches in Central Park over the last year. In February, Elmaz Qyra of Brooklyn died when a snowy branch came down on him on the Literary Walk. The Central Park Conservatory is also in the midst of a $120 million lawsuit involving a rotted branch that fell on Google engineer Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, causing him brain and spinal damage last July.
Advocate groups think that the city should take more responsibility for park safety.
"This is crazy. We really have to be looking at this — it’s happening way too much,” Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates told the New York Daily News. "We cannot have the public getting killed in the park.”