Turns out, Friends of the High Line, the group that masterminded the park, built all the chaise lounges, benches, bleacher seating and decking with tropical hardwood ripped from the jungles of the Amazon.
Friends' wood of choice, ipê, grows throughout the Amazon at an average of 1 to 2 trees per acre; well-funded loggers bulldoze a virtual ant farm of roads to chase down these scattered trees.
In the Amazon, the consumption of export -- quality wood, including ipê, is the primary factor leading to deforestation -- mostly because logging roads open up previously inaccessible areas of forest to land speculators, cattle ranchers and farmers.
To make matters worse, according to the Brazilian government, 80 percent of logging in the Amazon is done illegally. And the heavily armed criminal cartels doing this logging also have a nasty record of stealing land from indigenous people and killing those who get in their way. Illegal loggers are even known to employ slave laborers, as reported in an exposé by investigative reporters from Knight-Ridder.
Unfortunately, when it comes to materials used in New York City's public infrastructure, Friends' preferences are far from unique. Tim Keating, executive director of Rainforest Relief, an environmental watchdog group, said that during the 1960s, the city's Department of Parks and Recreation began using tropical woods for renovations to 10-plus miles of coastal boardwalks.
By the mid-80s, multiple city agencies were, in his words, "on tropical forest feeding frenzy." They imported rain forest wood not just for all the boardwalks, but also for the promenade of the Brooklyn Bridge and tens of thousands of park benches, subway track ties, and pilings along the Staten Island Ferry terminals (each piling is a single tree from old-growth Guyanese rain forest).