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 SCAPE Team’s final proposal here.
Download a PDF of the SCAPE Team’s final report here.
Review an earlier version of the proposal here.
City of New York, The College of Staten Island, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of State Coastal Consistency, US Environmental Protection Agency, Fisherman’s Conservation Association, Friends of Conference House Park, The Harbor Foundation, NY Harbor School, Kayak Staten Island, National Park Service, Natural Resources Protective Association, NY/NJ Baykeeper, NY/NJ Audubon, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, NYC Economic Development Corporation, NYC Department of City Planning, NYC Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, NY Rising, Pleasant Plains, Prince’s Bay and Richmond Community Association, Staten Island Assembly members, Staten Island Baymen’s Association, Staten Island Borough President’s Office, Staten Island City Council members, Staten Island Historical Society, Staten Island Long Term Recovery Organization, Tottenville Civic Association, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Valley Civic Association, Zone A NY