Living Breakwaters Coastal Resilience

An innovative living infrastructure solution, incorporating a necklace of offshore breakwaters, aims to reduce coastal erosion, revive ecologies, and connect the community to the Staten Island shoreline.



  • Staten Island, New York, USA


  • New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery

Project Status

  • Ongoing (est. completion 2022)

Need for Enhanced Erosion Protection

The southeastern shoreline of Staten Island, New York has experienced continued erosion over decades due to increasingly intense waves. Additionally, wave activity, siltation, dredging and pollution have significantly deteriorated the marine ecology of Raritan Bay, including the once abundant oyster population and the rich biodiversity it supported.

The need for enhanced erosion protection came into stark relief during recent storm events, including Superstorm Sandy, when the community of Tottenville experienced severe damage from storm surge. Following Sandy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force launched “Rebuild by Design” to seek community and policy-based solutions to protect U.S. cities most vulnerable to intense weather events. WSP was part of the interdisciplinary team led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture that proposed the selected “Living Breakwaters” concept.

Credit line for image above: The Scape Team Living Breakwaters HUD Rebuild By Design



Creating Habitat Breakwaters

The project is designed to reduce the risk of storm damage to Staten Island by creating habitat breakwaters to attenuate waves and reduce shoreline erosion. The living infrastructure will also provide habitat to the bay’s rich ecosystem of marine life, rebuild local oyster populations and create educational, recreational and commercial opportunities for residents. Additionally, a land-based “Water Hub” facility will be constructed to provide educational, monitoring, stewardship and social engagement programs designed to bring residents to the water to re-engage with their ecology

WSP USA is conducting all in-water geotechnical analysis for the design of the living breakwaters and is supporting the community engagement effort, especially as it relates to the siting and design for the Water Hub, an on-land space for visiting groups, recreational activities, and educational programs.

Credit line for image above: The Scape Team Living Breakwaters HUD Rebuild By Design

Resilience Initiatives

Living Breakwaters is designed to work in concert with other ongoing resilience initiatives in the area, including the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Tottenville Dune and Coastal Dune Plantings project. The vegetated dune system will be strengthened by the breakwaters, to provide a layered system of protection. The project is now a project of the State of New York and will be further developed and implemented by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery in the coming years.