Tropical Hardwoods and the Agencies that Use Them



Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and Staten Island Ferry Terminal Docks

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

The NYC Department of Transportation has imported greenheart to build and renovate the promenade of the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition, they use greenheart for ten thousand-plus pilings in the Staten Island Ferry docks. Each piling is over 60 feet tall and comprised of a single greenheart tree trunk. The DOT is currently gearing up to rebuild the docks of the Staten Island Ferry. Unless we convince them otherwise, they will be ordering another mass shipment of rainforest wood.

Staten Island Ferry Dock

Staten Island Ferry Dock

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has done so much to increase bicycle transportation and public space in our city. But we don’t think she should be allowed to offset those carbon credits with the destruction of one of the last contiguous tropical wilderness areas on the planet. Ultimately, it will be her decision to gut these tropical forests—or save them. We want her to know that polywood pilings, made of 100% post-consumer plastics would do the job just as well as tropical woods, if not better (just ask the Army Corp of Engineers).

Please contact Commissioner Sadik-Khan and tell her to invest in the future.
Tel: (212) 442-7033
On-line form:


Marine Transfer Stations

Right now, the Department of Sanitation is planning on using large quantities of greenheart to build three new marine transfer stations. This is an unnecessary waste of our planet’s natural heritage. In addition,for a recent waste transfer station bid, DSNY specified apitong, a rainforest wood banned by New York state law.


Years ago, DSNY Commissioner John Doherty completed New York City’s “Top 40,” a program that recognized and developed the future leaders of our city. The question that we have for him is, are you ready to really lead our city into a responsible future? To put behind you and the department an outdated and ecologically devastating way of doing business? To set an example of appropriate development in an era of rapid climate change?

Please contact Commissioner Doherty and tell him that now is the time to act.
Ph: 311
On-line form:





Benches and Boardwalks in the Five Boroughs

The Department of Parks and Recreation has used ipê for almost all the tens of thousands of benches in the five boroughs and for the decking of 12.5 miles of coastal boardwalks, including the infamous Coney Island boardwalk.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island Boardwalk

Calculating the average size and growth area of the ipê tree, as well as the grade, length and quantity of board footage by Parks, we’ve estimated that our boardwalks have resulted in logging over 125,000 acres of old growth Amazon rainforest—and that’s just counting the initial conversion.

However, the damage is far worse than that. During the 1960s, Parks first renovated the Coney Island boardwalk with ipê, making New York City the first U.S. city to use tropical hardwood for a boardwalk. Since then, wood importers have used the high profile of Coney Island and, later, Atlantic City, to initiate the national, even international, trend of coastal boardwalks, and, subsequently, home decking, fencing and siding, comprised of tropical wood.

Still, there is some good news to report. After a decade of Rainforest Relief campaigning, in December 2007, Celia Peterson, director of the Parks Specification Office, stated that the agency stopped using tropical hardwoods for city benches.

Currently, Parks is experimenting with alternative materials, including recycled plastic lumber, as they prepare to renovate the boardwalks of Coney Island again. It would be amazing if we could set another kind of trend here, one that makes our City a showcase on urban planning in the wake of climate change and dwindling old growth forests.

Please contact Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and tell him its time to think greener and bigger than ever before.
Tel: (212) 360-130
Fax: (212) 360-1345
On-line form:


Hudson River Park (from Battery Park City to 59th Street)

Hudson River Park Trust, under Chairperson Diana Taylor, decided to use ipê for all the benches and decking along the waterfront.

How ironic that HRPT named one of their waterfront projects the “Nature Boardwalk.” The so-called Nature Boardwalk sits near Canal Street and is built with ipê. To construct this thing, HRPT deforested the Amazon, exacerbated climate change and funded criminal syndicates. And now they claim that this boardwalk has anything to do with nature?

It reminds us of all those suburban developments—Oak Grove, Cedar Knoll, Forest Glen—named after the very things they destroy.

According to Ms. Taylor, 50% of the park renovation is now complete and an additional 30% is currently under construction.

Please contact Ms. Taylor and tell her to reconsider at least the last portion of her project.
Tel: 212.627.2020





Subway Track Ties
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, a state agency, uses ekki for subway track ties.

Queens Subway Station

Queens Subway Station

It’s too bad the MTA hasn’t yet followed the lead of Chicago Transit Authority. Way back in 1998, the CTA began converting the track ties of their L train routes over to recycled plastic lumber. The CTA rightly brags that they are the nation’s largest purchaser of recycled plastic railroad ties, and that these ties “offer both performance and environmental advantages.”

It’s a decade after CTA’s visionary design. The science is in. Please urge MTA’s Executive Officer Elliot Sander and the MTA to do the right thing for the nation’s most renowned transportation system and for the peoples and chimps of West African rainforests.

On-line form:


South Street Seaport
In 1985, the City of New York built the decking of the South Street Seaport with ekki. Just 25 years since this installation, the ekki has withered. The epoxy used to patch it up makes the pier look as if it was spattered with industrial kitchen sludge. Don’t tell us that recycled plastic lumber wouldn’t look better! And it would last a heck of a lot longer, too—over 100 years.

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport

General Growth Properties and the City are currently re-designing the pier and, unless we can get them to build sustainably, they’re going to order a massive amount of rainforest wood to replace the decking.
South Street Seaport
Tel: 212-SEA-PORT
On-line form:

General Growth Properties, the agency spearheading the renovations of SSS




Faux Temple
Battery Park City Parks Conservancy claims they are the “greenest” community in the country. But by whose standards? Not only does BPCPC use teak, logged from either Burma or Indonesia, to construct a faux temple, they also use the tropical wood for a railing that runs along the top of fencing north of the Battery Park Marina. Just south of the marina are huge block benches made of . . . . . teak. BPCPC isn’t just likely funding oppressive regimes. They’re also breaking the law. The use of teak by State agencies, municipal governments, and public benefit corporations, was outlawed by New York’s State Legislature in 1991.


Please contact the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy and tell them that their brand of “green” doesn’t seem to include tropical rainforests, the lungs of our planet.

Tel: 212.267.9700