Innovative Community Design to Reduce Storm Damage

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Pippa Brashear, Principal, SCAPE Landscape Architecture and Project Manager at Living Breakwaters, to discuss the innovative design built to reduce and reverse damage from rising waters and storms in NYC and the region.

10/24/19 #2254






"One bold engineering project is giving the coastal communities of Staten Island hope. What if we just look at this a whole new way? Look at the problem a new way, and look for new solutions? Pippa Brashear is an urban planner and landscape architect. She works with a team that believes the answer is to stop trying to fight the sea, but to learn to live with it, and even harness it to do good. Not harm. The design project that ultimately came out of it was our Living Breakwaters project. The project is located on the southern tip of Staten Island. It was really pummeled by waves during Sandy. Our Living Breakwaters project, it's a system of offshore breakwaters. Each of the individual breakwaters range from about 300 feet long to 450 feet long, and they are spaced along the shoreline to really protect it from the most damaging waves... Oh boy. It's real, isn't it? This is Pippa Brashear, who joins us... by the way, thank you to our friends at PBS for providing that video from Sinking Cities. How vulnerable is Staten Island? It's very vulnerable. I think it was one of the areas that was hardest hit during Superstorm Sandy. But what we don't think about also is a sort of a gradual threat of sea level rise and erosion. The North Shore is getting some big, tall coastal protection projects. But the South Shore, in addition to suffering from wave damage and flooding during Sandy, the shoreline is slowly eroding over time. You know, we're losing the beach. And that's the first kind of line of protection for public space for homes that are there. I know Staten Island very well. And some friends of ours in the media business who are out there, they call themselves patriotic Americans, like most of us, but they skew a certain way politically and otherwise. I imagine there are a significant number of, dare I say, climate deniers? Are there fewer today than the, you know, last few years? I don't know. We have seen, you know, folks in some of the neighborhoods near where the breakwaters are being built, say, "There are no waves here!" And it's just... well, if you stand out there day to day, there's very small waves. But those waves are actually carrying away the sand. Right. You know. One day to the next. And there were waves during Sandy. But I think what we also find is the next generation on Staten Island, the students, have been really interested in, and involved, in this project. I've worked with... I know, a class there that has come to talk to us about the project, and they'll, like, tell me things about the..."