Family mourns Flushing man killed by felled tree

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Loved ones gather outside a home on 166th Street where a 29-year-old man was killed. Photo by Christina Santucci
The home's chimney is visible through the damaged roof. Photo by Christina Santucci
Laino's brother Nicholas stops by the home with other family members to help retrieve items. Photo by Christina Santucci

A tree blown over by winds from Monday night’s superstorm fell onto a Flushing home, killing 29-year-old St. John’s University graduate Tony Laino, police said, and Tuesday afternoon friends and family gathered for an emotional reunion in front of the crushed residence.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful young man. There’s no explanation for something like this,” said Heather Valente, whose daughter Danielle was Laino’s longtime girlfriend.

At about 7 p.m. Monday night, the large tree in front of the house on 166th Street between Lithonia Avenue and Pidgeon Meadow Road teetered forward and fell onto the roof under the force of what was previously called Hurricane Sandy, flattening nearly one-third of the top floor of the two-story home. The gigantic trunk fell directly onto Laino’s room and crushed him while he was on a couch, according to neighbors.

Laino was pronounced dead on the scene by emergency workers, according to the NYPD.

The family had been asking the city to take down the tree for years, according to neighbor Joann Evangelista.

Just two or three months ago city workers came to prune the branches off the large tree, and Laino’s father had begged for them to cut it down even though arborists had told him that the tree was healthy and could not be dug up, Evangelista said.

“It was tragic,” she said. “You just can’t get it around your head.”

Evangelista said neighbors repeatedly dialed 911 after the tree came crashing down, but could not raise someone on the other line.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 2:22 am, August 15, 2013
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Reader feedback

Eric West from None says:
You can see the tree on Google Maps. It's damn huge. I can't believe the city could be so ignorant for not removing it. You can see a gust of wind would have blown it down.
Oct. 31, 2012, 7 pm
Tanya S. from Queens says:
Really???? Do you really mean that?? You can't believe the city would be like this?! Come on.....I'm sure you didn't fall off a turnip truck!! It's Flushing, Queens, NYC.....and it's hell!!!!!!!!!!!
Oct. 31, 2012, 9:27 pm
Lisa l says:
The city should have taken it down after YEARS of them complaining...the tree was clearly not in good condition. Tony will be missed by many people...he was taken to soon....everyone is shaken by this tragedy...we will never forget him
Nov. 1, 2012, 9:04 am
JL from Flushing, NY says:
Check it out! I am helping Donations for the Laino Family
Nov. 3, 2012, 11:54 pm

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