WCS's New York Aquarium Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for Ocean Wonders: Sharks!

Groundbreaking of 57,000-square-foot facility is part of the effort to transform the New York Aquarium and continue the rebirth of Coney Island

Facility will house more than 100 species of marine wildlife including sharks, skates and rays

A mong elected officials in attendance were: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; City Council Member Mark Treyger; Former City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.; Council Member Vincent Gentile; Council Member Mathieu Eugene; Council Member Robert Cornegy; Council Member Alan Maisel

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Brooklyn, N.Y. – Jan. 10, 2014 – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium today celebrated the groundbreaking of Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, a 57,000-square-foot building that will house more than 115 species of marine wildlife, including sharks, skates, and rays. This historic event marks the beginning of the rebuilding and transformation of the New York Aquarium, post Hurricane Sandy.

Ocean Wonders: Sharks! will have important benefits for the economy, education and conservation of Coney Island, Brooklyn and all of New York City.
  • The New York Aquarium serves more than 750,000 visitors annually and generates more than $58 million of economic activity for the community.
  • Education is a vital part of the exhibit, which will include a new state-of-the-art Oceanview Learning Laboratory where the 220,000 school children who visit the aquarium annually will learn about aquatic wildlife and their habitats.
  • In addition, the New York Aquarium has teamed up with the WCS Global Marine Program to ensure that the transformed aquarium includes additional educational exhibits about the New York seascape and to ensure a robust local conservation program from Cape May to Montauk. 
Elected officials and community leaders who attended the event included: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; City Council Member Mark Treyger; Former City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.; Council Member Vincent Gentile; Executive Vice President, Economic Development Cop. Tom McKnight; First Deputy Commissioner, NYC Parks & Recreation Liam Kavanagh; Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ocean Initiative Sarah Chasis; Director of Operations for the Alliance for Coney Island Johanna Zaki; and Principal of the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies Ed Wilensky.

The Ocean Wonders: Sharks! project was delayed due to Hurricane Sandy. It is scheduled to be completed in 2016. The City of New York is an important partner for the project. New York City has committed $111 million to the $157.1 million capital project.

“The New York Aquarium’s spectacular new ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ exhibit will lure visitors to Coney Island from far and wide, and immerse them in all the wonders of the watery deep,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s the result of years of hard work and creative planning by the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners in City government. And today’s groundbreaking is another huge step forward in the Aquarium’s – and Coney Island’s – continued recovery from Hurricane Sandy.”

Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, said: “We are thankful to our trustees, the City of New York and all of our supporters for making the transformation of the New York Aquarium possible and for standing by us in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Ocean Wonders: Sharks! will provide a magnificent, state-of-the-art home for 25 species of sharks and rays while educating people about wildlife found in New York waters. The exhibits will raise awareness about the threats facing marine species and habitats and educate people about the need for marine conservation in New York and around the world.

"This groundbreaking today is a real sign that Coney Island is coming back post-Sandy. At WCS, we are committed, through the New York Aquarium, to contribute to the economy, education and conservation of all of New York City. Ocean Wonders will become an iconic structure enhancing the Coney Island skyline and the transformation will enhance the community."

Said WCS Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium, Jon Forrest Dohlin: “This is an historic day for the New York Aquarium. From its first days at Battery Park dating back to 1896, to its comeback after Hurricane Sandy, the aquarium has had an amazing past. Today, we broke ground on its future.”

The new exhibit will feature sharks, rays, sea turtles, thousands of schooling fish, and more. Showcasing WCS marine conservation work, the exhibit will hold more than 500,000 gallons of water in fully immersive and interactive exhibits. It will forge connections between people and wildlife while highlighting the need for conservation of delicate marine ecosystems.

The building’s façade on the oceanside will include a 1,100-foot long shimmer wall constructed of 33,000 individual 4" x 5 1/2" aluminum panels that will wrap the exterior. The transformation will turn a visit to the aquarium into seamless experience with the famous Coney Island Boardwalk and the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Several public officials and community leaders commented about the Aquarium’s transformative Ocean Wonders: Sharks! project.

Said City Council Member Mark Treyger: “I am excited to witness the groundbreaking of this new and dynamic exhibit at the beloved New York Aquarium in Coney Island. Ocean Wonders: Sharks! will be a wonderful addition to the array of sea-life and another sign of the aquarium's resilience after Sandy. This world class exhibit will attract people from all over to visit the aquarium. It is our hope that this new exciting addition will go a long way to insure that Coney Island becomes a year round destination to revitalize our local economy and to provide safe family enjoyment to both local residents and visitors.”

Said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: “Congratulations to the New York Aquarium for breaking ground on Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, their latest and greatest exhibit. I am excited that the Borough President’s office has been able to support this project, which will add to the vibrancy of one of Coney Island’s cultural and economic pillars. Visitors young and old will come to “sink their teeth” into this great display of marine life, all of which will highlight the great education and conservation work of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Thank you to everyone that has made this important milestone in Brooklyn’s growth possible.”

Said former City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.: “The groundbreaking of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit is an exciting step forward not just for the New York Aquarium but the entire Coney Island and South Brooklyn community. This exhibit promises to not only satisfy curious minds about these majestic and fascinating creatures, but it will also be New York’s window to the ocean that surrounds us, literally. With this new exhibit, the local community can also surely expect an economic boost as an increased number of year-round visitors will come to the area and experience all that Coney Island has to offer.”

Said Ed Wilensky, Principal of the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies: "The aquarium is a wonderful educational institution and has been so for many years. This new building and exhibit will propel the aquarium into the 21st century and into future research about the oceans and its impact on our environment."

Said Dennis Vourderis, President of the Alliance for Coney Island and Co-Owner of Deno’s Wonderwheel Park: “I am extremely excited about the new Ocean Wonders: Shark! exhibit coming to the "NEW,” New York Aquarium. As I have said many times before, a rising tide raises all ships, and this new exhibit will bring all of Coney Island to a new level of excitement for the millions of visitors who come to the Boardwalk each year.”

Said Sarah Chasis, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Oceans Initiative: “We congratulate the aquarium on the groundbreaking of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit that will provide New Yorkers and people around the world with the experience of our ocean’s amazing and surprising wilderness and marine life. NRDC is proud to be the aquarium’s marine conservation partner and we look forward to continuing to support its important mission to protect our ocean and local waters that are so critical to wildlife and humans alike.”Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is part of a larger initiative announced in 2009 to help revitalize the aquarium, Coney Island and its economy. Other elements of this initiative include the building of a holding and quarantine area for the aquarium’s sharks, sea turtles, and other marine wildlife, and the renovation of Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef, which opened in 2011.

Led by WCS Vice President of Planning and Design & Chief Architect, Susan A. Chin, FAIA, the building and the exhibit are being designed in a collaborative effort between the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Design Department, The Portico Group and their consultant team including Doyle Partners and the artist of the shimmer wall, Ned Kahn. The Architect of Record is a NY based firm, Edelman, Sultan Knox Wood. The Construction Management firm is Turner Construction Company.

Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a public-private partnership made possible through the generous support of the City of New York and the Borough of Brooklyn. Special thanks to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn City Council delegation, Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. This project would not be possible without their leadership and generous support.

CONTACT: 
Barbara Russo - 718-265-3428; 917-494-5493; brusso@wcs.org
Mary Dixon – 347-840-1242; mdixon@wcs.org
Max Pulsinelli - 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org

Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium is open every day of the year. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fall/winter/spring hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily. Admission is $9.95 per person; children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 4 p.m. in the summer and after 3 p.m. in the fall, admission is by pay-what-you-wish donation. The aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at www.nyaquarium.com. Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the WCS New York Aquarium, a beloved part of Brooklyn and all of the City of New York. Due to Hurricane Sandy we are partially opened. Check our website for more information. www.nyaquarium.com

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http:/facebook.com/TheWCS; youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: @theWCS.

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a Web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to www.wcs.org.

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