Skip to main content
Governor’s office of storm recovery (GOSR)

Living Breakwaters: Tottenville

In June 2013, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched Rebuild by Design (RBD), a competition to respond to Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in the northeast region of the United States. In June 2014, following a year-long community-based design process during which the design teams met regional experts, including government entities, elected officials, issue-based organizations, local groups and individuals, HUD announced the winning proposals. The Staten Island Living Breakwaters Project which proposed a layered resiliency approach to promote risk reduction through erosion prevention, wave energy attenuation, and enhancement of ecosystems and social resiliency, was one of the selected projects. As a result, New York State has been allocated $60 million of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to implement the project along the Tottenville shoreline of the South Shore of Staten Island. With an ecologically enhanced breakwater system to address wave energy and shoreline erosion at Tottenville, this project also fulfills New York City’s Resilience Plan Coastal Protection Initiative 15.
About the Project
Living Breakwaters is an innovative coastal green infrastructure project that aims to increase physical, ecological, and social resilience. The project is located in the waters of Raritan Bay (Lower New York Harbor) along the shoreline of Tottenville and Conference House Park, from Wards Point in the Southwest to Butler Manor Woods in the Northeast. The project area is a shallow estuary that has historically supported commercial fisheries and shell fisheries. In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated Staten Island’s east and south shore neighborhoods. The driving wave action bombarded the coastline, damaging or destroying an unprecedented number of Staten Island homes and businesses, resulting in loss of life and significant harm to the local economy. Tottenville, a community at the southernmost point of Staten Island, experienced some of the most destructive waves in the region. Historically known as “The Town the Oyster Built,” the community was once protected by a wide shelf and series of oyster reefs, much of which was harvested by local oystermen. Today, much of the shore of Staten Island is void of these natural systems, and remains exposed to wave action and coastal erosion.
Living Breakwaters consists of (1) A system of designed breakwaters and physical habitat enhancements on the breakwater system, including shellfish (oyster) restoration on the breakwaters; (2) Oyster cultivation and activities supporting oyster restoration including: oyster cultivation (hatchery expansion, remote setting facility, etc.), shell collection and curing, and the installation of oyster nurseries; (3) A Water Hub, an on-shore public facility (building and site) to house educational programs, community stewardship activities, science and monitoring efforts, recreational program and equipment and exhibitions related to the project and its objectives of risk reduction and resilience, ecological enhancement and community building; and (4) Programming including educational, stewardship, and capacity-building activities related to the above.



In addition to the HUD-sponsored Rebuild by Design process described above, the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program was established by New York State to provide rebuilding and revitalization assistance to communities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project (TSPP) (formerly the Tottenville Dune Project) was conceived through the NY Rising planning process, and proposes new shoreline protection features as a coastal resiliency strategy for the Tottenville area. New York State proposes to use approximately $6,750,000 of CDBG-DR program funds to implement this project along the Tottenville shoreline from approximately Carteret Street to Page Avenue, working in collaboration with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. This partnership is memorialized in a Memorandum of Understand (MOU) which can be downloaded here. The TSPP is a separate project from the living breakwaters, but the two projects will complement each other and function together to reduce risk, enhance ecology, and foster community and stewardship along the Tottenville shoreline.


Learn More About the Project 



Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project 


Public Engagement 




The budget amount submitted in the overall design proposal to the RBD competition for the Living Breakwaters project was $73,904,000. With a Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) allocation of $60 million, the State will explore additional funding options to fill any unmet needs and analyze the budget further to implement a reduced scale project which still meets project objectives. Additionally, the environmental review process will help shape the potential implementation requirements of the Project not currently identified in the conceptual plan.


The State is currently in the design phase of the project with 30% design of the breakwater being completed in October 2016.  The outline below represents a proposed timeline for Living Breakwaters. The schedule will be updated as the environmental review, permitting and design progresses. The State is committed to ensuring the timely expenditure of federal funds and will be providing a more detailed timeline in future Action Plan Amendments (APAs).

Phase Start Finish
Living Breakwaters Quarter 4 2014 Quarter 4 2020
Study, Research Planning: This Phase will outline all additional studies, research and planning needed prior to the design and engineering phase. As necessary, this phase will be incorporated into the Environmental and Review and Permitting stage as well as the Engineering Phase. Quarter 4 2014 Quarter 3 2016
Environmental Review and Permitting: This Phase will include scoping for and preparation of an environmental impact statement, as well as the submittal of permits applications to the appropriate governmental agencies. This Phase will include significant opportunities for public review and comment, as well as intergovernmental consultation. Additionally, as required by State and federal law, the EIS will evaluate alternatives to the proposed project. This timeline is meant to represent an overview of the expected Environmental Review Process for all aspects of the Living Breakwaters. It should be noted that the environmental review and permitting timeline is dependent on the permitting requirements of agencies with jurisdiction, including the United States Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA-NMFS, USFWS, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Quarter 4 2014 Quarter 3 2017
Design and Engineering: This phase will include all design and engineering work required for Living Breakwaters culminating with complete construction specs. Depending on the progress and outcome of the Environmental Review and Permitting process, this process will be able to run concurrently for some components of the project. This phase will include any and all necessary procurement and contracting as appropriate. Quarter 4 2015 Quarter 3 2017
Site Development: This Phase will include all necessary elements for site development from the Design and Engineering Phase that will prepare for the construction phase of Living Breakwaters. GOSR will evaluate a potential phased site development schedule for different project components (e.g., upland components and in-water components). Quarter 3 2016 Quarter 1 2018
Construction: This Phase will include all elements of construction related to Living Breakwaters outlined in the Design and Engineering Phase. For Living Breakwaters, the timeline is extended to reflect that the nature of the project will only allow for construction in specific building seasons. GOSR will evaluate a potential phase construction schedule for different project components (e.g., upland components and in-water components). Quarter 1 2018 Quarter 1 2020
Closeout: This phase will include the closeout of the entire project, including but not limited to: Final site visits and review, release of final contingency payments and all applicable CBDG-DR construction closeout requirements. Quarter 4 2019 Quarter 1 2020

The environmental documents for this project can be found here.

$15.8 Billion

in economic output from the new jobs