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The tree man of Staten Island.

Last September, a Staten Island, New York, newspaper published a story about Herman Schnittman of New Dorp, who has what may be a record number of trees around his home. If it'll grow, I won't chop it down," says Schnittman, who counts 125 trees on his 120-by-100-foot city lot from a Japanese maple inches high to a red cedar that towers over his home. Schnittman and his wife, Elaine, moved to their Staten Island home in 1956. Family snapshots from the early 1960s prove that the white house on the corner of Mobile Avenue and Coverly Street was actually visible to passersby back then. Schnittman planted some of the trees himself. He would find seedlings growing in his rose garden. "I'd cultivate them for a couple of years," he says, "and then move them over to a more advantageous place."

His neighbors have never complained about the miniforest that gives Schnittman a perpetually shady, naturally air-conditioned yard. "I used to be known as'The Man'because I've been living here longer than anybody else and wouldn't take lip from anybody. Now I'll walk by and hear neighbors say, Hey, there goes the Tree Man. Schnittman says that the newspaper story has been a lot of fun. "I was a hero for a day," he says, adding that he began noticing people driving by after the story appeared. More than one stopped and used a calculator to total up the number of trees.

Schnittman is troubled by homeowners who remove trees. "I nearly punched one guy in the nose for cutting down a tree," he says.

Like proud parents, Schnittman and his wife can recall the size each of their trees was when the couple moved to Staten Island. Pointing to a maple or a magnolia like it's one of the family, they'll tell you how big it was 34 years ago.

What's more, they have

tilled the same love of trees in their daughter., Miriam Friend, who lives next door on an 80-by-100-foot property with more than 50 trees. The operator of a photography studio, Friend often uses the picturesque, gangly old trees as backdrops for her photos of children.

Schnittman notes that he may also hold first place for the most worms, spiders, squirrels, and bees on a small plot.

"We definitely have the most leaves, " says his daughter. "We're talking serious leaves. "

In keeping with his gardening philosophy, which is keep-it-simple, each fall he rakes the autumn leaves on top of the English ivy that substitutes for a lawn. The leaves filter down int the ivy where they compost until the following spring; then he shovels them out and chops them up with his lawn mower. He says that's about the only time he uses the mower. And he has never put out a bag of leaves for the sanitation department to haul away to the city landfill. The impetus to his hobby of raising trees was his six years with the Merchant Marine. "All I saw was water," he recalls, adding that when he left the service, "I just wanted to get a house with a lot of green. " On occasion, he has lost a tree: a weeping willow blew down in a storm and an oak was "besieged" by carpenter ants. Even if the trees begin to crowd each other, Schnittman says that he won't interfere. "I'm not going to make a decision for nature," he says. "I just sort of guide it along." Schnittman hopes his greenery serves as an example to other homeowners. He thinks that the newspaper story may have already persuaded a few people to leave their trees standing. Herman Schnittman may not know it, but he's a Global ReLeafer par excellence. AF
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Title Annotation:Herman Schnittman
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:619
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