Did you know that oysters once covered more than 220,000 acres of the New York Harbor Estuary? At that level, trillions of oysters acted as ecosystem engineers, providing continuous water filtration, wave attenuation, and habitat for thousands of marine species. However, with the arrival of Europeans to the area, oyster reefs were severely overharvested and eventually destroyed by urbanization and pollution.
Now, Billion Oyster Project (BOP) has taken on the ambitious goal to restore one billion oysters to New York Harbor- and some of them are coming to BBP!
This summer, BOP brought its new Community Reefs Program to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s waterfront. The program will help bring BOP closer to fulfilling its long-term plan to restore the Harbor’s keystone species and the ecosystems it fostered, and in the process, reshape New Yorkers’ relationship to their Harbor. The reef located off the shores of BBP’s John Street section will join the already existing pilot reef at Governors Island. These reefs, which are placed at strategic locations throughout the Harbor, will act as sites for restoration and community education.
According to Katie Mosher-Smith, BOP’s Reef Construction & Monitoring Specialist, the reefs will “allow New Yorkers to see what restoration looks like…to get up close to the work that’s happening under water. They can walk up to it, they can wade up to it, they can float up to it, and they can touch it.” These reefs will provide an opportunity for nonscientists to learn about the Harbor and become more engaged with the water that surrounds them.
BBP’s reef will act as reefs do- filtering the Harbor’s water and providing habitats for marine life such as crabs, blackfish, and sea squirts- while bringing the public into the work of BOP and emphasizing the importance of living reefs in the restoration of the Harbor’s ecology. As community members of all ages will take part in the hands-on work of restoring their own marine neighborhoods, local waterfronts will once again be activated!
Want to get involved? On Friday, September 16, race to restore New York Harbor at the 6th annual New York Harbor Regatta! Sail NY Harbor and the following party on the beach will benefit New York Harbor Foundation.