NYC has some great oyster bars, but its most in-demand shellfish yet may soon be coming to the Gowanus Canal instead of to your favorite seafood restaurant. Scape Studio has received funding for its ambitious Oyster-tecture project – an oyster park for millions of mollusks at the mouth of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. Oysters have the unique ability to ‘eat’ toxins and dirt, so the new park could be just the way to clean up what is currently one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.
“We propose to nurture an active oyster culture that engages issues of water quality, rising tides, and community based development around Brooklyn’s Red Hook and Gowanus Canal,” explains Kate Orff of Scape Architecture on their website. “An armature for the growth of native oysters and marine life is designed for the shallow waters of the Bay Ridge Flats just south of Red Hook. This living reef is constructed from a field of piles and a woven web of “fuzzy rope” that supports oyster growth and builds a rich three-dimensional landscape mosaic. A watery regional park for the New York Harbor emerges that prefigures the city’s return to the waterfront in the next century. The reef attenuates waves and cleans millions of gallons of Harbor water through harnessing the biotic processes of oysters, mussels and eelgrass, and enables neighborhood fabrics that welcome the water to develop further inland.”
This ‘oyster-tecture’ has been described as a 21st-century approach to creating new waterfront infrastructures where long-gone shellfish can be brought back. Construction has already begun on the new pier area that is to host Orff’s reef. In fact, oysters are one of nature’s best cleaners as they have the ability to filter 50 gallons of water a day!
Oysters were once plentiful in the waters around New York, but died out by the turn of the 19th century due to industrial waste, sewage, diseases and the dredging of the harbor to make room for shipping and development. Now, marine scientists believe that new beds of oysters could break down pollution in areas where the water temperature, currents, chemistry and other conditions are right.
Of course, due to their ‘cleaning’ of toxins, these oysters will never be eaten and any poachers aiming to harvest them for profit will be prosecuted.