Award-Winning Coastal Resiliency Effort is in Response to Superstorm Sandy and First of Its Kind in the Country
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the kickoff off a $60 million “Living Breakwaters” barrier that will provide critical defenses against coastal erosion and grow the natural habitat for finfish, shellfish and crustations on the south shore of Staten Island. The water-based barrier, which includes an oyster reef to further break waves and filter sea water, complements the Staten Island NY Rising final resiliency plan to protect the area in response to the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. The Living Breakwaters project is funded as an awardee of the federal Rebuild by Design Competition.
“Staten Island was impacted greatly by Superstorm Sandy, and it is fitting that the first Rebuild by Design project to be implemented will be to protect these communities from the severe weather that is a result of our changing climate," Governor Cuomo said. “This project will make Staten Island the model for resiliency and innovation, using state of the art techniques to keep communities safer and better prepared for the next extreme weather event. I look forward to seeing the project develop as we continue to build back better.”
Living Breakwaters will provide environmental co-benefits of improving water quality and protecting the marine habitat by reducing the force of waves in the area. A system of concrete and recycled glass composites will be installed in the Raritan Bay to dissipate destructive waves, and incorporate small pockets to serve as homes for finfish, shellfish and crustations. The structures will also be seeded with oysters, forming an oyster reef that will physically grow the breakwater over time. The oyster reef will further buffer against wave damage, flooding and erosion, while filtering pollutants from harbor waters. Once completed, Living Breakwaters will form a “necklace” of in-water structures that span Staten Island’s South Shore.
The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery will today begin gathering data to assist in construction of Living Breakwaters to ensure full consideration for the natural environment. Over the course of the next couple of weeks the firm will deploy vessels to map the underwater surface, sample the sediment and identify any obstructions. Final reporting from the studies will be compiled during the first week of June, and the results will be shared with the public through a newly formed Citizen’s Advisory Committee to encourage participation during the process. As part of the public participation process, the final project proposal will be subject to environmental impact statement review and associated federal and state regulatory permit approvals.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Through the Living Breakwaters project and other innovative resiliency projects underway across New York, Governor Cuomo is again leading the way, showing how to adapt to extreme weather and improve our environment together."
Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery Executive Director Jamie Rubin said, “Through the innovative Living Breakwaters project, we aim to mitigate the impacts of damaging waves while promoting a new and thriving marine habitat. Continuing our efforts to balance top-down strategies with bottom-up approaches, we are thrilled to develop a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to spur community involvement and capture the excellent feedback of local residents.”
Living Breakwaters was designed by SCAPE/Landscape Architecture and named a winner of the Rebuild by Design Competition in June 2014. The contest was initiated by the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and operated by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. It encouraged interdisciplinary firms to create blueprints for recovery and resiliency efforts; Living Breakwaters is one of two winning Rebuild by Design projects that the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery is working to implement.
HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey Holly Leicht said, “It is incredibly gratifying to see the first of the seven winning Rebuild by Design proposals turn the corner from ‘innovative design concept’ to ‘resilient capital project. The success of the Rebuild by Design competition will be borne out by what gets built, and today, the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and the SCAPE team are proving that through unprecedented coordination among federal, state and local government, this ambitious plan that captures the imagination of everyone who sees it, can and will become a reality off the South Shore of Staten Island.”
Scape Founder & Partner Kate Orff said, "We are pleased to be working closely with the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery on this layered strategy for coastal protection on Staten Island's South Shore. Critical moving forward is multiple lines of defense against increasingly unpredictable weather events. The Living Breakwaters project attenuates waves, and reduces erosion. It also embraces people as a critical participant in a healthy urban ecosystem, and uses the regenerative power of ecology to reduce risk and grow a layered, resilient shoreline."
The barrier will be constructed in Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay, which is the optimal site to cultivate a network of large scale habitat breakwaters and reefs. The shape and depth of the bays, as well as their central location, water quality conditions, tidal current flow, successful oyster restoration efforts, and risk-reduction potentials, all point to the shallow stretch in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary system. In addition to the direct benefits of this project, the concept is a replicable resiliency strategy that can be used elsewhere to reduce damaging wave impacts and promote new marine habitat.
Along with the introduction of Living Breakwaters, the project proposes a number of social resiliency plans including the Water Hub, which is an on-shore facility designed to be a gathering space for lectures, community meetings and more. The Water Hub will promote existing public and private programming and will provide for on-site ecological education space and amenities. Recreational activities can be expanded through new programming and waterfront access opportunities, such as kayaking and fishing. Tottenville will become a recreational destination for Staten Islanders and visitors from across the region.
The Billion Oyster Project and the New York Harbor School are critical partners in project’s efforts to bolster Staten Island’s social resiliency. Through a long-term and large-scale plan, the Billion Oyster Project plans to restore one-billion live oysters to New York Harbor over the next 20 years while educating thousands of youth in the region about the ecology and the economy of their local marine environment.
The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery intends to build on this foundation by working with schools, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals across Staten Island and the region, to cultivate oysters and grow existing and new educational programs. Through the expansion of this coastal stewardship and educational programming, Living Breakwaters will foster a vibrant, water-based culture, and invest in students, shoreline ecologies, and economies.Promoting stakeholder participation in local communities will create stewards organically, ensuring long-term success of the endeavor.
Billion Oyster Project Director Pete Malinowski said, "At the Billion Oyster Project we are thrilled to see this effort get underway. The Living Breakwaters mark an important shift in the way we think about coastal armament. These breakwaters will not only reduce wave heights and protect our shores but will also serve as a refuge for dozens of local species and a platform for engaging local school children in the science and history of New York Harbor. The Billion Oyster Project is a long-term plan to restore oysters to New York Harbor through in-water ecosystem restoration and public education. The Living Breakwaters provide the ideal platform to advance our goals and make learning about and engaging with the Harbor a reality for thousands of Staten Island school children."
Living Breakwaters complements NY Rising recovery and resiliency efforts, both on the South Shore and on Staten Island as a whole. Throughout the project’s development, the design team has worked closely with many community partners, including the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s NY Rising Community Reconstruction Planning Committee in Staten Island, to draw on the many local needs and assets. As such, the Living Breakwaters project incorporates the “Tottenville Dunes and Coastline Dune Plantings” effort, which is a $6.75 million proposed project in the Committee’s final resiliency plan. The dune project, while independently valuable, will be further strengthened by the breakwaters.
Staten Island NY Rising Committee Member and Tottenville Civic Association President James Pistilli said, "This is excellent news for the Tottenville community and especially for the residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Living Breakwaters, along with a complete dune system, will afford protection to this community and its coastline from future storms. This project retains the character and integrity of the community, while embracing our maritime heritage as the 'Town the Oyster Built'. It will go a long way in keeping the Tottenville beach community a viable and vibrant place to live, and I applaud Governor Cuomo and NY Rising staff for their efforts to see this project move towards implementation.”
New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP said, “NYC Parks has been working closely with Governor Cuomo's Office of Storm Recovery and Mayor de Blasio's Office of Recovery and Resiliency to advance the City's plans for immediate recovery and long-term resilience through initiatives that aim to strengthen coastal defenses, upgrade buildings, protect infrastructure, and make neighborhoods safer and more vibrant. This is another step in the right direction that will protect Staten Island communities from future storms."
About the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program
Announced by Governor Cuomo in April 2013, the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program seeks to empower storm-impacted communities throughout the State, helping them to build back better and stronger than before. Altogether, more than 650 New Yorkers served on 66 NY Rising Community Reconstruction Committees, which have collectively proposed approximately 700 locally oriented projects. Throughout the eight-month planning process, the program has held more than 650 Planning Committee meetings and more than 250 large scale Public Engagement Events. Funding for both planning and project implementation comes from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program.
About the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery
Established in June 2013, the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery coordinates statewide recovery efforts for Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The Office invests $4.4 billion from HUD’sCommunity Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program through its NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, as well as its NY Rising Housing Recovery, Small Business and Infrastructure programs, to better prepare New York for future extreme weather events.