Tottenville, Staten Island, is the planned site of the $60 million Living Breakwaters project, an imaginatively conceived storm mitigation and community engagement project that was the winner of the presitigous HUD Rebuild by Design competition.
Our visit to view the Living Breakwaters site peaked our interest in the town of Tottenville itself, situated on the southwestern tip of both New York City and New York State. It was immediately apparent to us, and later from conversations with local leaders, that this once vibrant marine village has been a victim of more than superstorms. Its economy, its natural and built assets, and the human networks that grew up around them, have also been debilitated over time by a combination of industrial pollution, sewerage contamination, and often ill-considered residential and commercial real estate development. What’s more, residents of this hard-working, middle class community often feel their needs and challenges have been ignored by the city at large, and they have periodically threatened to secede from it. Some even refer to their hometown as Forgottenville.
As we viewed Tottenville through the lens of our Regenerative Economy framework it was natural to ask: How could Tottenville reinvent itself in the 21st Century and thrive in ways unique to itself, but also by connecting in more synergistic and vibrantly sustainable ways with its neighboring communities and with the City of New York of which it is a part? The Field Guide now embarks on a new kind of activating storytelling series where we will seek the answers to these questions in partnership with local community leaders.
— Susan Arterian Chang