Widely considered a model for climate-adaptive green infrastructure, Living Breakwaters is a $107 million project with a layered approach to risk reduction—enhancing physical, ecological and social resilience along the South Shore of Staten Island.
The project consists primarily of 2,400 linear feet of near-shore breakwaters—partially submerged structures built of stone and ecologically-enhanced concrete units—that will break waves, reduce (and eventually reverse) erosion of the beach along Conference House Park, and provide a range of habitat spaces for oysters, fin fish and other marine species. The Living Breakwaters concept was developed by a large, multi-disciplinary team led by SCAPE as part of a winning proposal for Rebuild By Design, the design competition launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after Superstorm Sandy.
The breakwaters are designed to reduce the impact of climate-intensified weather events on the low-lying coastal community of Tottenville, which experienced some of the most damaging waves in the region and tragic loss of life during Superstorm Sandy. Informed by extensive hydrodynamic modeling, the breakwaters are also designed to slow and, eventually, reverse decades of beach erosion along the Tottenville shoreline. 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.
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.
Learn more | To learn more about Living Breakwaters, visit the NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) website. In 2021, sociologist Eric Klinenberg covered the Living Breakwaters project and over a decade of SCAPE work for The New Yorker. Read the article, ‘Manufactured Nature,’ here. SCAPE Founding Principal Kate Orff joined Christiane Amanpour on CNN / PBS to discuss the project and urgency for funding natural infrastructure. The project has also been covered widely in The New York Times; Smithsonian Magazine; The Associated Press; Scientific American and many more publications.
- NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery
COWI (Design Team)
Arcadis (Design Team)
SeArc Ecological Marine Consulting (Design Team)
WSP (Design Team)
MFS Engineers (Design Team)
Prudent Engineering (Design Team)
LOT-EK (Design Team)
The Billion Oyster Project (Engagement)
Weeks Marine (Construction Contractor)
Ramboll (Construction Management)
Baird (Construction Management)
AKRF (Environmental Review & Permitting)