Environmentalists, city clash over boardwalk

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Ipê (pronounced E-pay) is a tree found in the Amazon Basin whose wood is used often in the U.S., according to Keating. The trees that are used are usually 250 to 1,000 years old. According to scientific studies, Keating explained, the only way that it might be possible to log the tree sustainably would be to take no more than two trees per century, by hand, with no modern machinery.

“The reality is, there isn’t a stick of ipê that reaches the United States that has not been logged from an old-growth rainforest in an unsustainable way,” Keating said. “There’s no such thing as an ipê plantation.”

But city officials insisted that it specifically purchased wood that is certified — by the company that sells it — as sustainably harvested. Klein said that the city has done its own research to ensure that environmentally responsible practices are being followed.

“When I wrote it,” he said, “that’s exactly the reason why we put that [language] in there, and that’s exactly what we’re purchasing.”

The city decided to use tropical hardwood to rebuild the boardwalk after an extensive survey of Long Beach residents in February, conducted by Sustainable Long Island. It cited recommendations by its consulting firm, the Department of Public Works, the engineering firm that is overseeing the boardwalk project and residents in choosing a material that is stronger and more sustainable than the wood used in the old boardwalk.

“Hardwood is what’s being used in most boardwalks, and it provides the best safety barrier,” said Klein. “The boardwalk is being built out of the best and most environmentally safe products that you can use to give us the best boardwalk.”

Keating estimated that to rebuild the 2.2-mile boardwalk, 5,900 square acres — or nine square miles of rainforest, more than twice the size of Long Beach — would have to be logged. “You now have the federal government footing the bill with our tax dollars for Long Beach to participate in massive deforestation,” he said.

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