Baby Oysters Cruise from Port Authority’s Red Hook Terminal

By Amanda Kwan, Media Relations Staff

The Port Authority and the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) celebrated their years-long partnership in mid-July with a ceremony involving 15 million oysters – but not a single one ended up on a seafood platter.

The BOP began moving the oysters from a new waterfront seeding facility at the Brooklyn Port Authority Marine Terminal via barge last month to their new underwater home near Soundview Park, at the mouth of the Bronx River. The move was enabled by the Red Hook Container Terminal (RHCT), a Port Authority tenant that donated space and four shipping containers retrofitted to serve as a school bus of sorts for the oyster babies en route to the Bronx River.

The collaboration with BOP provides waterfront access and the logistics equipment needed to hoist the shipping containers – each filled with 9,000 gallons of seawater and oyster racks – onto Port Authority-owned barges to carry baby oysters to the farther reaches of New York Harbor. Oysters are just as delicate as their taste; the babies cannot survive long outside their optimal living conditions. Ensuring they remain blissfully uninterrupted in their watery homes is crucial to their survival.

Altogether, these first four shipping containers transported 15 million baby oysters north from Brooklyn to the mouth of the Bronx River, where eventually five new acres of oyster reefs will help filter millions of gallons of seawater to benefit the city’s marine ecology. Millions more oysters will take a ride in the shipping containers later this month from Brooklyn to the new reefs in the Bronx River.

Photos by Douglas Lyle Thompson, courtesy of the Billion Oyster Project

“This is a big moment for our crew and community at large,” said BOP Executive Director Pete Malinowski.

The Port Authority’s history with the BOP predates its evolution from a project at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. In 2009, while working in the Port Department, Robin Bramwell-Stewart met Harbor School representatives interested in developing a maritime training center on Governors Island. It led to the PA working with the school to place students into Port Department internships, tours of Port facilities, Port-related school projects and workforce development programs for students.  

“Part of the reason for being involved with the BOP and the Harbor School is to be involved in programs that can produce the next generation of maritime workers for our Port,” said Bramwell-Stewart,  now the PA’s interim general manager for its three Staten Island bridges who became a BOP board member in late 2018. “A clean and sustainable harbor, which provides a source of regional employment, is critical for the future of the Port and harbor life in New York.”

As one of BOP’s 19 board members, Bramwell-Stewart makes policy and strategic decisions to help reach a goal of seeding one billion oysters in New York Harbor by 2035 and to increase public education of the city’s marine ecology and oyster reef restoration. Not only do the reefs clean the water, they also help protect waterfront communities and critical Port Authority assets like tunnels and airports from storm damage by reducing flooding and preventing shoreline erosion. So far, more than 30 million oysters have been planted and 13 reef sites have been installed with help from students and volunteers, including some from the Port Authority. Most recently, 15 PA staffers volunteered with BOP through the Port Authority’s Remembrance Through Renewal program, which provides employees with volunteering opportunities to honor those who died in the two World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Photos of last year’s PA volunteer group working with oyster shells

“The Port Authority has hands in the city’s air, land and sea, and we’re using them to help whenever possible,” said Bramwell-Stewart.

“We support the efforts of the Billion Oyster Project, and together with their work and the Port of New York and Jersey’s sustainability initiatives, it’s clear that the health of New York Harbor is improving for sea life,” said Beth Rooney, Deputy Director of the Port Department. “We definitely can use more oysters right now.”

Photos by Douglas Lyle Thompson, courtesy of the Billion Oyster Project

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