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Fresh Kills

The Choreography of the Cutback

Over the years there have been zillions of articles about the High Line Spring Cutback (including several on this blog), but until today I didn’t have a clue what a complex and coordinated operation the whole thing is. This morning I had the great privilege of watching and participating in Act II of the Cutback: removal of the clippings from Manhattan island and their transport to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where they complete the circle of their natural life and become compost for someone else’s garden.

It is an amazing piece of choreography that takes place every week after the volunteers have put down their clippers. What was most remarkable to me is how this group — the extraordinary gardening staff of Friends of the High Line — works together so smoothly and easily each step of the way. Like they do it every week!

Here’s how it goes.

First: huge bags that the Cutback volunteers and gardening staff have filled with clippings throughout the week are loaded onto hand trucks and transported through the High Line’s bog to the 14th Street elevator.

Giant bags loaded with clippings head south along the bog

Sticks, branches, etc. are carried out separately.

Loads of branches and sticks

Thirty-some bags neatly line West 14th Street. (Bringing back memories of Madeline:  “Thirty-three bags in two straight lines; They left the Line at half past nine….). As it turns out, there are a few too many bags to fit inside the panel truck, so three or four will make a rare trip back up the elevator to the Southern Spur and cool their jets for another week before moving along to Staten Island. [continue reading…]