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BOPavilion open for business!

By Susannah Black
June 5, 2015

How’s this for a Harbor hack: construct a summer pavilion out of rebar and marine line– then when the season’s over, break that puppy down and upcycle it all into oyster reef infrastructure!

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Background: as you may or may not be aware, BOP is NOT a matter of just dumping oyster shell into the Harbor and crossing our fingers.  Mature oyster reefs have a rigid, 3-D structure to them that can’t be duplicated by a heap of shells on a muddy Harbor floor.  The students replicate that structure by welding rebar into what we’re calling oyster condos, which then get wire mesh gabions inserted into them: think of each gabion as an oyster “apartment”– overpopulated even by NYC standards, with 3-500 oyster shells per gabion, which themselves each host living baby oysters.  (The age varies: some have been allowed to grow out in more sheltered conditions, some are younger.)

Why is this structure important?  A couple of reasons.

First of all, right off the bat– like within several weeks of Harbor students diving to install them– these condos are teaming with life: not just the oyster spat, but blackfish, crabs, large numbers of tunicates (sea squirts, or sea grapes), and many more.  (The tunicates are particularly notable because they’re also filter feeders, and actually even better water cleaners than oysters.  They’re also notable because they are to my knowledge the only species named after Manhattan: they’re Molgula manhattenisis.  They are, as you may gather from this, East Coast natives– so if you’re from the West Coast & used to thinking of them as invasive species… they’re not.)

Second of all, these condos can be populated with cured shell that doesn’t already have spat on it.  Raised up into the water column, these batches of cured shell are hot real estate for free-floating wild spat: they’re a key component in native recruitment of Harbor oysters.

And all of those condos– all that structure– needs to be manufactured by Brendan Malone’s Marine Systems Tech students, at the MAST center on Governors Island.  And that means (as MST student Dashia Steele reported in a past post) rebar.


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Welcome to the Billion Oyster Pavilion, slightly psychedelic brainchild of Babak Bryan and Henry Grosman of B-an-G Studios, and part of Figment’s City of Dreams Pavilion Project. Check out this New York Magazine piece for further coverage & pix; join us under the Pavilion this summer; and volunteer to plunder it for its materials once the season’s over!

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Murray has a new happy place.