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5,000 recycled toilets and thousands of oysters will help clean up Jamaica Bay

JAMAICA BAY, Queens — Fifty thousand oysters are finding a new home in Jamaica Bay on beds made from recycled toilets, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Tuesday.

The waters around New York used to be blanketed by oysters, but they've been functionally extinct here for years. The reintroduction of 50,000 oysters to Jamaica Bay will help protect critical wetlands.

"More oysters can mean more coastal resiliency, cleaner water and healthier ecosystems," said State Senator Daniel Squadron.

Oysters aren't just a highlight of some restaurant menus; they filter pollutants, protect shorelines from erosion and provide habitats for fish. The oyster installation will be the single largest one in New York City.  Other projects have happened along the East River. The oysters are bred for this project by students at the Harbor School.

The oysters will be set in beds made from pieces of shell and pieces of crushed toilet porcelain. The DEP has harvested nearly 5,000 toilets from city public schools. They replaced them with more efficient toilets.

The city ran two oyster reintroduction pilot programs from 2010-2014. Results showed that oysters were able to survive and reproduce in Jamaica Bay.

“This innovative project will buffer New York from future storms; it will help clean up the water in the bay; and it will create wildlife habitat,” said National Fish and Wildlife Fund Northeastern Director Amanda Bassow. “That’s a tremendous win, and exactly the kind of resilience solutions the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Program hoped to inspire.”

Nearly $1.4 million in federal grant money is being spent on rejuvenating the 31-square-mile Jamaica Bay. The bay touches sections of Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection also contributed about $350,000.

The city also announced plans in 2015 to build an oyster reef off of Staten Island as a buffer against wave damage and erosion.

"As a city surrounded by water, we must make sure we take care of our greatest resource," said Councilman Costa Constantinides.