By Mike Pomranz
Updated September 07, 2016
Credit: Courtesy of NYC Water

If someone came to you and said they had an idea that involves 50,000 oysters and a bunch of broken toilets, you’d probably tell them to get the hell out of your office before you call the police. But believe it or not, those are the two key ingredients in a new plan announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that he hopes can help revitalize the waters of Jamaica Bay.

Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project, unveiled the plan yesterday. The initative will see the largest single installation of breeding oysters in the city – a central donor bed that will be 50,000 oysters strong – surrounded by four smaller receiving beds made of shells and, of all things, broken porcelain from approximately 5,000 old toilets that were recycled as part of the city’s water conservation program. The hope is that these beds will eventually become a self-sustaining system.

In launching the project, the city stressed how, thanks to harvesting, dredging and pollution, the near extinction of the once flourishing oyster populations in the waters around New York City has had a number of negative impacts to the ecosystem by removing an animal that had previously filtered pollutants, protected against erosion and provided a habitat for other marine life. Officials hope this project will help reverse some of those negative effects.

“Today’s announcement is a critical step in the effort to restore healthy oyster populations in the bay,” said Dani el Zarrilli, Senior Director for Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer for the Office of the Mayor in a statement. “Not only are we protecting critical wetland habitats and demonstrating the resiliency dividend of natural infrastructure as we are preparing the waterfront communities around Jamaica Bay for the impacts of climate change, we are also building the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Of course, this site is dedicated to food, meaning some of you are probably wondering when we’ll be able to eat Jamaica Bay oysters. When these bivalves will be available for culinary purposes wasn’t addressed in the announcement, but I’d say they’ll probably be ready about the time you’re interested in eating oysters bred among broken old toilets in a dirty bay. So, let’s just say, not immediately.