Some New Yorkers are fighting to preserve the remnants of the Rockaway Boardwalk.
The boardwalk, which was largely demolished during Hurricane Sandy, was constructed from a blend of tropical trees that can last three times as long as domestic species and are extremely resistant to insects and weather damage.
But New Yorkers Cathy McHale and Scott Francisco say that the wood is being thrown out, without any effort to salvage and reuse it.
The city could have an interest in salvaging the wood, in light of the mayor’s recent plan to gradually reduce the use of tropical hardwoods in city infrastructure. The plan aims toward reducing rainforest deforestation, but Francisco said that salvaging the wood would be a way to use valuable timber without knocking down more trees.
“Repurposing is very appealing if the wood has enough life left in it,” Francisco explained.
Francisco said that bulldozers have already broken a lot of the boards.
“Our plan is to salvage enough to create a section of boardwalk that would be a memorial constructed from the original wood,” Francisco said. “But it’s probably not going to be a huge section because so many of the boards are broken.”
This Sunday, McHale and Francisco plan on gathering a group of volunteers at the 91st Street community garden to begin recovering material.
Alan Solomon of Sawkill Lumber Company, which salvages wood from demolished buildings, said nine blocks of boardwalk are twisted along the waterfront, still largely intact.
Some fighting to preserve the original boardwalk are also threatening to protest during President Barack Obama’s visit today.
They are asking that the city suspend demolition and disposal of the boardwalk and set aside a day to discuss the issue with community groups and wood reclamation specialists.
The Parks Department did not yet say whether the wood would be saved for a future boardwalk or memorial.
“Parks is working closely with other agencies to clean the damage inflicted by the hurricane and identify sections of boardwalk that can be salvaged,” Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson told Metro. “Working with the FEMA contractors, the material will be secured to a future use yet to be determined.”
Asked if the Parks Department would want to reuse the salvaged wood for park improvements, Abramson added, “We … always look to recycle and repurpose materials when possible.”
Can it be saved?
Whether the wood can be repurposed depends on how long it has been exposed to outdoor elements. Francisco noted that different sections of the boardwalk could be a wide range of different ages and species, but estimated that the small samples of just one species had been outside for twenty years, so would have ten to fifteen years of outdoor life still in them.
All of it could be repurposed, though. Even the oldest, most exposed would can be used indoors, or made into park benches or planters, or cut into shorter lengths to isolate the best pieces.