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The Billion Oyster Project and DUMBO's Eco-Renaissance

Tucked within the verdant embrace of John Street Park in DUMBO, Brooklyn, resides a tribute to an unsung hero of New York's environmental lore - the unassuming oyster.

Signage for Billion Oyster Project in DUMBO, Brooklyn

You can hear more Brooklyn stories with Gesso’s self-guided New York audio walking tours, which you can experience at your own pace.

For now, let's dive into the history behind these unconventional city dwellers.

Oysters are nothing short of environmental superheroes. Consider this: a single oyster, in its quiet, determined way, can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. This not only enhances water quality and clarity but also encourages the flourishing of other aquatic life.

For eons, the New York Harbor was host to vast, shimmering oyster reefs that served as bulwarks against storm surges and homes to a panoply of marine life. Sadly, a trio of malefactors - over-harvesting, pollution, and unrelenting urban development - saw these crucial creatures nearly vanish by the early 20th century.

Yet, as the sun set on the oyster population, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of the Billion Oyster Project. Launched in 2014 by the New York Harbor School and the New York Harbor Foundation, this ambitious initiative committed to restoring a staggering one billion live oysters to the harbor over the ensuing two decades.

The project's educational arm also promotes stewardship of our precious waterways among younger generations. Local schools collaborate with the initiative, offering students hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.

As you stand in John Street Park, consider the sublime interplay of urban spaces and natural environments. Each effort, however small, can spark profound transformations, much like the humble oyster's quiet yet profound impact on our harbor.

Many more Brooklyn stories and New York City tours await. Discover more local history with our New York audio walking tours, and see which nearby New York City neighborhoods you want to explore next!


Gesso was created for urban explorers who find joy in life's hidden gems. Find audio tours on the Gesso app, available via the App Store or Google Play, and share your New York City adventures with us on Instagram.


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