Living Breakwaters

Staten Island, New York, U.S.A.

Project Facts

  • In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the New York City area in 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Rebuild by Design competition. A proposal called Living Breakwaters, which won $60 million in the competition, is an innovative coastal ecological restoration pilot designed to boost local resilience and also educate the local community about the value of dune and reef ecosystems along the south shore of Staten Island.
  • Living Breakwaters, which began in 2015, will reduce risk for coastal communities, build reef habitat for oysters and fish, and create opportunities for waterfront stewardship and recreation.
  • Living Breakwaters will incorporate a set of breakwaters, which are marine sloped rock formations. They do not keep water out. However, they have the ability to calm water, reduce wave heights, and prevent shoreline erosion.
  • Using a computerized model, landscape architects and scientists found that had breakwaters existed in the area when Hurricane Sandy hit, wave heights would have been reduced by four feet.
  • The first phase will be used to study the ecological benefits, wave reduction impacts, and economic and recreational potential of the breakwaters.
  • The Billion Oyster Project and the New York Harbor School are important partners of Living Breakwaters. 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.


  • Urban
  • Re-development Plan
  • Waterfront
  • Beach
  • Bay
  • Estuary

Environmental Benefits

  • Restores Biodiversity
  • Creates Habitat for Wildlife
  • Prevents Erosion
  • Improves Resilience