Lawn & Landscape Magazine
NYC 2012: Mowing for the Games
By Ali Anderson
12 / 9 /2002

Sculpting a 1.5-acre lawn mural in mid-town Manhattan?

Not your typical landscaping job – but for Tim Kilgallon, president, CSI Landscaping, Scarsdale, N.Y., it was an excellent opportunity.  He and his company tackled the unique project in Bryant Park – a spot adjacent to the New York Public Library.  The resulting giant mural, reading "NYC 2012," was initiated by the NYC 2012 Committee to promote New York City’s bid for the 2012 Summer Games.

And, apparently, the bid campaign – including Kilgallon's lawn mural – was a success.  New York City was named as the nation's nominee, though it is still competing with other international nominees for the coming Games.

CSI Landscaping was recruited to design and mow this 1.5-acre lawn mural in Bryant Park as part of New York City's Olympic bid campaign.
Kilgallon was recruited for this rare assignment "quite unexpectedly," as he put it, by David Barkoe of Trylon Communications, a Manhattan firm handling public relations for the NYC 2012 Committee.  Barkoe had been impressed by the work of CSI Landscaping seen at a handful of commercial sites in Manhattan and found Kilgallon via the Internet.

Flattered by the request and intrigued by the possibilities, Kilgallon jumped at the offer.  But the mowing project definitely had its difficulties.

CHALLENGING TIMES. Plans for the Bryant Park project called for frequent meetings with Barkoe and company to coordinate scheduling, logistics and dimensional limitations.

"You can imagine that implementation of projects of this nature requiring expeditious movement of staff and equipment in and out of midtown Manhattan can be some mean feat!  Not only that, but we were under considerable time constraints," he emphasized, noting that the decision to pursue the project was not made until early October – and the completion date of Oct. 27th had already been announced.

Adding to Kilgallon's stress, the park was home to the annual Fashion Week, held in late September. Runways, tents, and thousands of attendees of the international event destroyed the park's turf, necessitating complete replacement of the sod.  However, machinery could not be used on the sod until it was firmly rooted – tightening the time slot for such a demanding project.  The Manhattan area also received an excessive amount of rain, which bolstered the sod's growth but hampered successful mowing.  And finally, Bryant Park Restoration Committee would not allow CSI to use any marking paints as guides for cut lines, requiring ingenuity in finding an alternate marking plan.

"PLAN B." The ban on marking paints threw a major kink in Kilgallon's plans for the park.  Redirected by the Bryant Park Restoration Committee, he opted instead to employ a CAD program.  Computer-Aided Design programs are used to calculate the dimensions required to generate spatially accurate and precise cuts into turf.  In the case of the Bryant Park mural, the cuts would yield – on an enormous scale - an accurate two-dimensional version of the desired message.  The message would then be clearly visible from the air and would become the focus for fly-by chopper coverage.  The CAD program designed letters that were 44' tall and 34' wide.  The numbers were 60' by 37'.

MAKING THE CUT. With plans finalized, the first cut – of 2.75" – was executed Oct. 18th.  And although a second cut of 2.75" was slated for Oct 23rd, the mower setting was put at 3" and the entire remaining site was mowed to obtain visual uniformity across the lawn.  The third and final cut of 2.5" was made Oct. 27th – on the morning of the media event.

All cuts were performed in one day by a three-man mowing crew.  After finishing up the final cut, the crew walked the site with backpack blowers to remove tire marks that could detract from the precision of the overall mural.  When this clean-up effort – coordinated via radio from the top of the Grace Building – was completed, the crew removed the rods and mason line.

Shortly thereafter, the site became a focal point for several hours of media coverage – both on the ground and in the air – from all major networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News.

For Kilgallon, the finished product was worth the hours of frustrated planning and careful engineering.  And it was definitely a valuable experience for CSI Landscaping.

"Personally, I viewed this project as a prestigious challenge to both the professionalism and technical acumen of CSI," Kilgallon explained.  "Although implementation was somewhat problematic, the result was flawless – and left us with a deep sense of pride and accomplishment in having played such a prominent part in the promotion of our city for the Olympic Games."

The author is Assistant Editor - Internet for Lawn & Landscape magazine and can be reached at