Bringing mussels back to Gowanus Bay

May 12, 2022 Mary Frost
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From Brooklyneagle.com


You may have heard of the Billion Oyster Project, which is working to bring oysters back to New York Harbor. Now meet the Infinite Mussel Project, launched last week by the RETI Center at the GBX~Gowanus Bay Terminal, not far from IKEA.

Mussels (like oysters and other bivalves) clean their habitats by sucking in dirty water and filtering debris, algae, chemicals and even microplastics into their gill chambers. Once plentiful in New York Harbor, the mussel population has shrunk dramatically.

RETI (which stands for Resilience, Education, Training and Innovation) hopes to bring mussels back to the harbor. To do so, the group is building a prototype “Floating Reef” out of low-carbon, biophilic (“life- friendly”) concrete. Mussels will be seeded onto ropes suspended below the floating platform. A solar-powered greenhouse will provide year-round plants for adjacent floating gardens, which will provide a habitat for a variety of sea life.

‘Party Like a Bivalve’

RETI knows how to have fun while doing good. The Infinite Mussel Project launched last Wednesday with — what else? — an Infinite Mussel Party on board the group’s floating eco-

lab, built on a barge docked at the tail end of Columbia Street.

The warm spring night was the perfect backdrop to mellow music by Control the Sound, steamed mussels (an almost infinite number) and a killer seafood boil, prepared by Matt Rubendall, classical guitar maker and knife-crafter.

“Our Infinite Mussel Project is a bit like the Billion Oyster Project — they’re our good friends, and of course we have to one-up them, going to infinite,” laughed RETI Executive Director Tim Gilman-Sevcik.

RETI is part of the C3 team (Climate Center Consortium), one of the finalists for the new Climate Center on Governors Island. RETI’s role on the team will be to build a large floating Climate Change Lab — “a multi-story building on a floating concrete base that will create its own biome around it in the water,” Gilman-Sevcik said.

RETI was founded to develop Red Hook’s resiliency after Superstorm Sandy devastated the neighborhood in 2012. Architect Gita Nandan, co-founder and board chair, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle “Today is all about bivalves and how bivalves are critical for our environment.”

In the long run, “RETI Center’s focus is on the blue-green economy and understanding how industrialization and nature-based solutions can actually go hand-in-hand to create a better, more sustainable, climate-friendly future,” she said. “Training and job creation are not just relegated to the land, but are really about our coastal edges.”

The floating lab docked off Columbia Street is the first element of a much larger vision: BlueCity, an off-grid, floating industrial eco-lab and community space.

“We want the barge and programs like the Infinite Mussel Project to attract people to the waterfront— not just alongside the waterfront, but in this particular project, it’s literally on the water,” said John Quadrozzi, Jr., president of the GBX~Gowanus Bay Terminal, sponsor of the Infinite Mussel Party and host/provider of the RETI Center & barge.

Quadrozzi said that the Gowanus Bay (unlike the infamous Gowanus Canal) is actually a tidal salt marsh, “which people are less familiar. So these vessels will be used to not only promote environmental restoration of this waterfront, but for education. RETI is working with public schools to bring students down to and on to the water and add that element of education at the elementary, middle and high school level, like P.S. 676, Harbor School and many others.”

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