SCAPE / Landscape Architecture
Staten Island, New York
SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology, Ocean & Coastal Consultants, SeArc Ecological Consulting, LOT-EK, MTWTF, The Harbor School and Paul Greenberg
The Living Breakwaters project reduces risk, revives ecologies, and connects educators to the shoreline, inspiring a new generation of harbor stewards and a more resilient region over time.
Staten Island sits at the mouth of the New York Bight, and is vulnerable to wave action and erosion. Rather than create a wall between people and water, our project embraces the water, increases awareness of risk, and steps down that risk with a necklace of breakwaters to buffer against wave damage, flooding and erosion. We have designed “reef street” micro-pockets of habitat complexity to host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters, and also modeled the breakwater system at a macro scale to understand how and where they can most effectively protect communities. This living infrastructure will be paired with social resiliency frameworks in adjacent neighborhoods. Through the Billion Oyster Project and an associated network of programmed water hubs, local schools will be empowered with science, recreation, education, and access.
Our approach is especially suited to Staten Island’s south shore, but it is also replicable in other waterfront communities faced with the similar duality of risk and opportunity presented by their connection to the water. Tottenville, the site of our proposed Phase One pilot, was once known as “the Town the Oyster Built.” During Sandy, lives were tragically lost, and homes and parks were severely damaged. Moving forward, we can foster a vibrant water-based culture, invest in our students, shoreline ecologies and economies, and Tottenville can claim the mantle as the Town the reef re-built.
Living Breakwaters reduces risk, revives ecologies, and connects educators to the shoreline, inspiring a new generation of harbor stewards and a more resilient region over time.
Breakwaters are rocky sloped walls placed within the water column that can drastically dissipate destructive wave energy. This project explores a mix of sub-tidal beds as well as forms that extend above the high water line. Communities are protected by the exposed breakwaters; areas that can benefit ecologically from slow inundation are paired with the sub-tidal forms.
Building Ecological Resiliency: A necklace of breakwaters is proposed along the South Shore to buffer against wave damage, flooding and erosion. We have designed “reef street” micro-pockets of habitat complexity to host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters, and also modeled the breakwater system at a macro scale to understand how and where they can most effectively protect communities.
A “unit” of change includes risk reduction, culture/educational programming, and ecological regeneration. Our approach is especially suited to Staten Island’s south shore, but it is also replicable in other waterfront communities faced with the similar duality of risk and opportunity presented by their adjacency to the water.
Building Social Resiliency: A network of programmed water hubs connect people to the water and encourage water-based activities in the calm water behind the Living Breakwaters. The water hubs offer basic services such as bathrooms and water fountains, as well as a host of programs suggested by local community groups, including storage for monitoring equipment and kayaks, classrooms, wet laboratory space, flexible gathering spaces, local restaurants, bird watching stations, and nature observation decks.
The Tottenville Reach, our proposed Phase 1 Pilot, implements all elements of the project: physical, ecological, and social. It will be used to study ecological benefits, wave reduction impacts, and the economic and recreational potential of Living Breakwaters. It is critical that Phase I be implemented at a scale large enough to establish proof-of-concept, enabling Living Breakwaters to become a replicable strategy and have immediate benefit to the residents of Tottenville.
Download a PDF of the team’s final competition boards here.
View a PDF of the team’s full proposal here.
View a video about the Living Breakwaters project here.
Progress on Implementation
Following the award of $60 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2014, Living Breakwaters advanced into a Design & Implementation phase. As part of this process, the SCAPE team conducted extensive hydrodynamic modeling and engineering analysis of the breakwaters to develop design scenarios. These iterations were shared with the local Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) for review and community input. The final design received city, state and federal agency approval as part of environmental review and permitting.
Construction on the Living Breakwaters project began in Summer 2021.
- Click here to learn more about the project on the NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) website and stay abreast of construction updates.
- Click here for the SCAPE project page.
- “Manufactured Nature” by Eric Klinenberg in The New Yorker (August 2021)
- Kate Orff discusses Living Breakwaters with Christiane Amanpour on CNN / PBS (August 2021)