Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the deployment of materials to create a new marine habitat at Hempstead Reef as part of the state's ongoing efforts to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York's shores. Hempstead Reef is a 744-acre site located three nautical miles off Long Island's South Shore, with depths of up to 72 feet. Through the largest artificial reef expansion in state history, this milestone supports the Governor's efforts to bolster Long Island's tourism and fishing industries.
"Long Island's coastal economy is supported by world-class fishing, boating, and tourism - all of which drive foot traffic to local businesses and fuel the success of the entire region," Governor Cuomo said, "The deployment of materials at Hempstead reef will enhance the aquatic ecosystem along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, provide new habitats for marine life, and expand recreational opportunities for generations of New Yorkers."
"The expansion of the Hempstead Reef will provide new marine habitats and boost Long Island's economy," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The largest artificial reef expansion in the state will offer increased opportunities on Long Island with additional resources and tourism attractions for residents and visitors. The expansion of artificial reefs in New York State create more diverse ecosystems and increase recreational opportunities in our communities."
As directed by Governor Cuomo in April, and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the State Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority are being put to new use and helping to develop New York's artificial reef sites, including Hempstead Reef. Materials deployed today to the Hempstead Reef include two decommissioned Erie Canal vessels at 115 and 75 feet respectively, two New York Power Authority turbine runners totaling 140 tons, as well as four DOT bridge trusses and former Tappan Zee Bridge material consisting of concrete decking, bridge supports, and pipe piles. The deployment marked a significant milestone as part of the state's historic artificial reef expansion initiative.
Construction of New York's first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and the Governor's expansion initiative is the state's first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs. The artificial reef expansion will increase the biodiversity of habitats for a variety of fish and crustacea, promote environmental sustainability, and boost Long Island's recreational fishing, sport fishing, and diving industries. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation manages the state's 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean.
In May, the Governor announced the inaugural deployment at Shinnecock Reef, which included recycled materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge project, DOT, and Canal Corporation. State agencies began deploying barges of Tappan Zee Bridge recycled materials and decommissioned vessels that have been cleaned of contaminants. Earlier in July, deployments were made at Smithtown and Rockaway reefs. In addition to Hempstead and the previous deployments, two additional reef sites will be enhanced this year off the shores of Moriches and Fire Island.
The deployment of materials at Hempstead reef will enhance the aquatic ecosystem along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, provide new habitats for marine life, and expand recreational opportunities for generations of New Yorkers.
Materials used for the reef expansion are being strategically placed and built out of hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials that are cleaned of contaminants before being recycled on the reef sites. Once materials and vessels settle to the sea floor, larger fish like blackfish, black seabass, cod, and summer flounder, move in to utilize the habitat within the new structures, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, these recycled structures will create a habitat similar to a natural reef.
New York's marine resources are critical to the state's economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island's total GDP.
Artificial reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. Visit the DEC website for more information about the Artificial Reef Program.
The Governor's Artificial Reef initiative builds on the state's record $300 million Environmental Protection Fund investment, $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, more than $2 million to NY Sea Grant to support the Ocean Action Plan Research Fund, and actions to ban offshore drilling along New York's coastline.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Governor Cuomo's innovative approach to expand New York's network of artificial reefs is a visionary plan that will create healthier, more vibrant and diverse aquatic ecosystem while bolstering the economies of Long Island's coastal communities through increased recreational opportunities for the region's sport fishing and diving industries. It's a progressive initiative that will benefit fish and fishermen alike and the latest example of the Governor's recognition that our environment and economy are inextricably linked."
New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, "We're gratified these vessels can be put into service one more time for the good of the state. By being part of Governor Cuomo's reef program, these vessels have a new lease on life, by supporting commercial and recreational fishing as well as providing excellent diving opportunities for generations to come."
Senator Todd Kaminsky, Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said, "Restoring our flourishing aquatic life on Long Island will continue to beautify our environment and help our local economy. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for advancing this project for Long Islanders."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, "Preserving our waters and marine life is critical to our commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and the way we live in Long Island. We thank Gov. Cuomo for his continued dedication to this cause."
Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said, "I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to our environment. This reef will attract new sea life to support our region's growing marine and eco-tourism economy. It's especially fitting that this reef be placed right off the coast of our Town, which has a proud nautical tradition built on our fishing and seafaring communities."
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, "The public unanimously supports restoration of our fish and water quality. These are historic actions that will be appreciated now and in the future. Kudos to Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership in restoring our waters."
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said, "Enhancing the State's network of artificial reefs to create new marine habitat is an important addition to the state's ongoing efforts to improve water quality and restore our fisheries. Thanks to Governor Cuomo for launching this great initiative, which is already attracting new life to our precious coastal waters."
A map, site coordinates and additional information on New York State's Artificial Reefs are available to plan trips to a New York State reef site.
Before visiting one of New York's artificial reefs, please be familiar with the current NYS Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations. View DEC's artificial reef building video on YouTube and learn more about our volunteer observation program here.