Recently at a wine bar in Williamsburg with friends, I spied some intrigue. A couple had just been served an oyster platter. Shortly after, the woman abruptly rose, put on her cropped faux-fur jacket, and walked out. The man seemed to gather a quiet dignity, sign the check and leave.
A smattering of oyster shells were upturned over ice, and four plump bivalves remained, untouched. Oysters at this place are $4 each, so they left, like, $16 worth of oysters on the table. If this pair knew about Billion Oyster Project’s new public shell drop off location, perhaps their evening would have followed a different course.
The Billion Oyster Project aims to restore one billion oysters to New York Harbor by 2035. Repopulating our local waterways with oyster reefs helps to create a habitat for aquatic life, and ease the impact of large waves during storms, which could reduce shoreline erosion and lessen flooding. In order to amass this climate change-battling seafood brigade, BOP needs all the oyster shells it can get.
In 2015, Billion Oyster Project began gathering oyster shells from restaurants all over the city, like Per Se, Grand Army and Raoul’s. The spent shells are cured–exposed to the elements for a year—before they’re ready to become vehicles for new larvae life and begin again in the Harbor.
Now, BOP has opened shell donation to the public at a new collection site in Williamsburg. Whether you’re shucking at home or having a life event in a restaurant at a time when only raw bar will do, you can pile your mother of pearl and haul it over to the bins at 105 River Street.
The new public collection site is neat for two reasons: One: The water and so on; and Two: Imagine you were on a date (a normal one) and you shared a plate of oysters. Wait, you might say, I’ll take those shells to go. Your companion might raise an eyebrow, intrigued and, perhaps, aroused? You’d wink and laugh. I want to show you something, you’d say. You’d take their hand and walk down Metropolitan Avenue (the date is in Williamsburg, obviously) toward the water. Once you reached River Street, you’d have explained the whole bit, demonstrated charm, and given your companion a quirky little story to tell at cocktail parties.
Or, you can vacate the date early, palm the oysters on the way out, slurping their $4 insides before you usher their rough exterior from one state of being (handheld snack) to the next (a different oyster).
Either way, whether you’re lucky in love or simply sanguine in seafood, as long as your shells end up in the custody of Billion Oyster Project, they’re all going to the same place.