Situated at the mouth of the New York Bight, the south shore of Staten Island is vulnerable to wave action and erosion, particularly on its south shore in Tottenville. Dredging and the diminishment of natural and farmed oyster reefs have left it increasingly exposed over time. One of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Sandy, Tottenville experienced tragic loss of life, severe flooding and erosion from the storm, and—given the projected impacts of sea-level rise and more frequent and intense storms—it will continue to lose land in the future if no action is taken to protect the area.

Living Breakwaters will protect Tottenville’s shoreline from deadly wave action and improve water quality in the Raritan Bay. The breakwaters will also be constructed with “reef ridges” and “reef streets” that provide diverse habitat space, with live oyster installation expected to follow construction completion. Shoreline restoration will be conducted concurrently with the construction of the final breakwater, replenishing eroded beachfront along the edge of Conference House Park.

Beyond the physical breakwaters, the project aims to build social resilience in Tottenville through educational programs for local schools in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP), as well as years of engagement through the Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC), a coalition of local stakeholders. As an outcome of this process, design team lead SCAPE and BOP developed an open-access “Living Breakwaters Curriculum.” 

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

Implemented By: New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR)

Press: Manufactured NatureThe New Yorker, South Shore’s $107M Coastal Proection Project, Staten Island Advance, SCAPE’s Kate Orff Uncovers Nature in Disguise, Cultured

How to get involved: Learn more about the project here, or here.