Parks and outdoor public facilities in New York City are enjoyed by millions of residents and visitors every year – it is more popular than ever to sit on a park bench, walk on the new High Line Park, the classic Coney Island Boardwalk, or to gather for a meal at one of the city’s many public outdoor bars and restaurants.

The NYC Parks Department is tasked with keeping its outdoor spaces beautiful, safe, and cost-effective. It continually refines and improves its official best practices, and its recommendations are studied and followed by other cities around the country and the world.

Those best practices are carefully explained in the NYC Parks Department publication “High Performance Landscape Guidelines; 21st Century Parks for NYC.” Noting the need to “choose materials wisely,” the plan highlights the objective to “decrease damage to the environment… (and) increase material resilience and ease of maintenance.”

NYC Parks have been replacing wood and metal structures and furniture with composite lumber and recycled plastic materials, in outdoor installations both large and small.

At the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk, for instance, wooden planking was a beloved tradition, but city planners decided: “Recycled Plastic Lumber was found to provide similar aesthetic standards to wood with much higher life cycle than the wood options. The new Coney Island Boardwalk will be enjoyable, long-lasting, and environmentally sound. The new boardwalk will maintain the look and feel of a traditional boardwalk while ensuring resilience and providing protection for Coney Island residents and businesses. As a coastal city, it’s more important than ever for us to use resilient, sustainable materials.”

In Central Park, benches are much smaller than the boardwalk – but are just as iconic! Here, the improved aesthetics of the newest HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)  products means that they are being deployed to restore old benches throughout the park. According to the city: “One of the most visible recycled materials in parks is recycled plastic lumber, which is used to make bench slats and curbs… and is available in a number of colors and can be textured to look like wood.”

And in many, many other places in NYC parks, plastic materials are being chosen to improve and upgrade outdoor spaces. More than ever, HDPE sheeting and composite lumber are being used to replace wood and metal construction and design elements in public spaces all across the United States. Architects, builders, and city planners recognize the crucial advantages of cutting-edge materials.

Advanced construction materials like Vycom’s Timberline™ woodgrain HDPE sheet and parent company AZEK’s TimberTech® decking satisfy popular sustainability initiatives. They are strong, versatile, and easy to install in a wide range of designs, and in an expanding array of pieces like rails, counters, cabinets, and furniture. Once installed, the new materials are easier to maintain – and hold their beauty and functionality longer – than wood or metal.