California Sea Lion at New York Aquarium

After being closed for four months due to extensive damage from Superstorm Sandy, The Wildlife Conservation Society announced that the New York Aquarium would partially reopen later this spring.

“The New York Aquarium has been an important part of the economic, cultural, educational and scientific community of Brooklyn since 1957,” Cristián Samper, president and CEO of WCS, said in a statement. “We know all efforts to reopen the New York Aquarium are vital to the rebirth of Coney Island. This partial reopening will ensure that the aquarium can help all of New York City experience a strong comeback from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.”

The reopening includes exhibits in the Main Hall, outdoor spaces of Sea Cliffs, Glover’s Reef and a fully remodeled Aquatheater, which will feature a new sea lion demonstration. Education programs will also resume on a limited basis, including the teen docent program, summer camp for students and training for educators.

The aquarium’s infrastructure was damaged when surge waters from the Atlantic Ocean flooded all buildings at the 14-acre park. It has been closed since the night of the storm.

“For more than 50 years, we have brought up-close experiences of the wonders of the world’s oceans to New York’s children and families. We are determined to ensure this important New York institution returns as strong as ever,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, WCS vice president and director of the New York Aquarium.

Individuals and Businesses Offer Support

Over the past few months, the WCS has worked with city officials as well as private donors to rebuild the damaged aquarium. The estimated budget for full restoration and reconstruction will be around $65 million.

Individual New Yorkers and local businesses have pitched in to help the aquarium raise money for their restoration efforts. Mark Scaglione, a Sleepy Hollow middle school student, raised over $1,000 for the aquarium by putting donation containers at local businesses in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, New York.

In January, the Brooklyn Brewery hosted a “Brews at the NYAQ” event where all proceeds went to the Aquarium Recovery Fund.

“We really enjoy working with our local community organizations and have a strong community support program,” Kaitie Lynch, a Brewery representative, told Vetstreet in an email.

Children's clothing boutique Torly Kid, located in downtown Manhattan, also held a fund-raiser in January. Torly Kid owner Carol Adams is the mother of two daughters who love spending time at the WCS parks, especially the aquarium.

“[My daughters] knew right away where they wanted to help [after Sandy]. So my kids and my husband hopped in the car and drove out to Brooklyn to help with the cleanup effort,” Adams says. “When they came home that night, we realized we could reach a bigger audience to help the Aquarium if we worked through the store. So we launched our fund-raiser.”

Discus Fish

This was the biggest fund-raising effort Adams had ever undertaken, lasting four weeks in the store and ending with a “Save the New York Aquarium Festival.”

“In the end, we raised close to $1,000,” Adams says. “We were so excited to learn that they plan to reopen in the spring! We may be their first visitor!”

A Part of the Community

New York City officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also feel that the aquarium is a crucial part of Brooklyn.

“WCS’s New York Aquarium is important to the recovery of Coney Island. The partial reopening is a milestone for the community as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy,” Bloomberg said in the statement.

New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. said South Brooklyn’s revitalization “would not be complete without the reopening of the New York Aquarium.”

“The partial reopening this spring is a step in the right direction to restoring this iconic cultural and educational institution, but there is much more work that needs to be done before it is back up and running in full,” Recchia said.

Samper said the “WCS is proud to be a part of the comeback spirit” of New York.

"We will always be thankful to all the New Yorkers, our public officials, fellow aquariums and zoos, and our friends from around the world, who have provided us financial and emotional support during this very challenging time. This encouragement is helping us to work every day toward a fully reconstructed aquarium,” said Samper.

Get updates about the recovery and learn more about donating to reconstruction efforts by visiting New York Aquarium’s website and Facebook page.