April 19th, 2010: Today, in anticipation of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Group released a 46-second video to call attention to the New York City’s on-going use of rainforest wood for public infrastructure. The video features nine individuals each holding a sign and standing at a site in the City where rainforest wood has been used. With quick zooms and cuts, the video joins the signs together to form the sentence, “You Are Looking At Dead Rainforests.”

Dead Rainforests of New York Video – youtube

NY Times Story on the Video: “Cutting Back the Rain Forest in New York”

“It’s 40 years since Earth Day 1970 and New York City is still cutting down rainforests to make boardwalks and subway track ties,” said Judith Canepa, a founder of the New York Climate Action Group. “The difference is, now we know better. And now there are perfect alternatives to tropical hardwoods—like recycled plastic lumber, black locust, Kebony and clay pavers.”

The video highlights iconic sites around the City that have been built using tropical hardwoods:

  • the High Line, Hudson River Park, Washington Square Park and the Coney Island boardwalk (virtually every piece of wood in these parks, including benches and decking, is comprised of ipê, logged from Amazon rainforests)
  • the Brooklyn Bridge and Staten Island Ferry (the decking and pilings, respectively, have been logged from Guyana, which contains the largest contiguous rainforest remaining in the West)
  • the South Street Seaport, Battery Park and the Downtown #6 subway line at Grand Central (the decking and track ties are both make of ekki, logged from West African rainforests).

Tim Keating, Executive Director of Rainforest Relief, states, “Our investigations have shown that New York City is the single largest consumer of tropical hardwoods in North America.”

During Mayor Bloomberg’s speech at the UN, in February, 2008, he announced his “Tropical Hardwood Reduction Plan,” which promised to cut the City’s use of tropical hardwoods 60% by 2020. But according to many scientists, at current rates of destruction, the majority of the world’s rainforests will be gone by then.

“The Mayor’s plan is too little, too late,” said Keating. “In fact, it’s not even accurate.”

The plan ignores new uses of tropical hardwoods by the Department of Sanitation, as well as on-going use by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s NYCTA, and numerous public benefit corporations, including Friends of the High Line, the Battery Conservancy and Hudson River Park Trust (which recently renovated the waterfront from Canal Street to 59th Street).

Alternatives are readily available for all the City’s uses of tropical hardwoods. The U.S. Army has built bridges of recycled plastic lumber strong enough to accommodate trains and 71-ton M1 Abrams tanks. As well, the New Orleans Port Authority uses recycled plastic for ferry terminals, and the Chicago Transit Authority has purchased more than 150,000 light-rail track ties made of this green material. In addition, Kebony, a domestic wood infused with sugars, and other domestic hardwoods like black locust and mesquite are as durable as most of the high-value woods logged from tropical forests.

“JFK gave us 10 years to get the moon,” said Tim Doody, the New York City Campaign Coordinator for Rainforest Relief. “But stopping New York’s use of rainforest wood isn’t rocket science. It’s simple engineering. Mayor Bloomberg is wrong to argue that we need a couple decades to get this right.”