Living Breakwaters, a layered, nature-based approach to enhancing the physical, ecological, and social resilience of the low-lying community of Tottenville on Staten Island’s South Shore, broke ground in September 2021. The project includes 2,400 feet of breakwaters, which are partially submerged structures composed of marine stone and biologically enhanced concrete designed with “reef ridges” and tidal pool units to provide habitats for oysters and other marine life. The eight breakwater structures, placed 1,000 feet offshore, are designed to break wave intensity, reverse beach erosion, and restore and enhance marine habitats. The project also promotes social resilience through local educational programs led by the Billion Oyster Project (BOP), engagement with a Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) of local stakeholders, and the open-access Living Breakwaters Curriculum developed by BOP and design team lead SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

Already, the construction team has finished production of all ecologically-enhanced concrete and tidepool units that will be placed in precise locations to enhance ecological habitat. The first two breakwaters will be completed in 2022. Placement of the third breakwater will begin later this year. Construction of all breakwaters is slated for completion by fall 2024, and planned Tottenville shoreline restoration will follow.


Location: Tottenville, Staten Island

Implementation Led by: New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR)

Budget: $107 million ($60 million CDBG-DR grant through Rebuild by Design, $47 million State Funding)

At a Glance: First two breakwaters will be constructed by fall 2022 and full project construction is slated for completion in 2024.

Press: Can oysters save New York City from the next big storm?, The Guardian (March 2022); How One Billion Oysters Could Protect NYC from the Next Superstorm, NBC (Dec 2021); New York City is Building a Wall of Oysters to Fend Off Floods, Bloomberg (Nov 2021); NYC’s $107M Living Breakwaters Project Building Barriers to Fight Rising Seas, Construction Equipment Guide (Nov 2021); SCAPE’s Kate Orff Discovers Nature in Disguise, Cultured (Sept 2021); SCAPE’s Living Breakwaters project begins in-water construction off of Staten Island, The Architect’s Newspaper (Sept 2021); The Seas Are Rising. Could Oysters Help?, The New Yorker (Aug 2021); Using nature to combat climate change, CNN (Aug 2021)


Learn more about the project on the project website HERE or the SCAPE website HERE

Find construction updates HERE

Access the Living Breakwaters Curriculum HERE.

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Construction on the breakwaters underway and viewed from the shore as of July 2022. Source: GOSR