Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper today unveiled designs and announced new funding for the New York Aquarium's “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” building. Slated to open in 2015, this new exhibit will house 115 species of marine animals, including 25 shark species, rays, sea turtles, thousands of schooling fish, and more. The building’s façade will feature a “shimmer” wall comprised of glimmering flaps of aluminum. Inside, interactive exhibits will engage visitors and bring them closer to marine life native to both local waterways and distant seascapes. "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" will also highlight rich local seascapes where sharks thrive and showcase WCS's shark conservation work. The transformation will turn a visit to the aquarium into a seamless experience with the famous Coney Island Boardwalk and nearby Atlantic Ocean.
"Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" will be made possible through generous gifts from the city and private donors. WCS Trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband, Donald Zucker, have contributed a gift of $7.5 million. In total, WCS, which runs the New York Aquarium, is raising $34.4 million in private funds, of which $11 million has already been raised. The City has committed $93.1 million in public funds to the project, which will transform the exhibit space to feature more than 100 different species of marine animals – including sharks – and bolster Coney Island as a premier tourist destination.
Joining the Mayor and Dr. Samper at the aquarium to announce the gifts were Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro, City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., and the Zuckers.
"'Ocean Wonders: Sharks!' is an important cultural, conservation and economic initiative for the City of New York,” said Dr. Samper. “Coney Island will soon be home to one of the world’s most spectacular shark exhibits. This is a great example of a public-private partnership that will bring an economic boost to the city, jobs to families and connect millions to the wonders of the ocean in the New York Bight and around the globe. We extend appreciation to Mayor Bloomberg, Councilman Recchia, Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz, Staten Island Borough President Molinaro, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York City Council for supporting this transformational project important to Coney Island development and for tourism across the city. We extend a special thank you to Wildlife Conservation Society Trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband Don Zucker for their tremendous support of Wildlife Conservation Society through the years and for providing significant private funding to ensure the success of this project.”
Mayor Bloomberg also expressed his enthusiasm. “From the start, the exciting expansion and renovation of the New York Aquarium has been a vital part of our efforts to revive Coney Island,” he said. “The project is going to make the Aquarium much more visible and visually exciting to Coney Island’s thousands of visitors – from those strolling the Boardwalk to others visiting the Aquarium itself. I want to thank the Zuckers for their generous support and look forward to the exhibit’s grand opening.”
"Don and I are proud to be a part of the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ Project,” said WCS Trustee Barbara Zucker. “It is vital that people know the importance of conserving wildlife and habitats. With ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’, WCS will educate and inform people about marine life and habitats in New York and the critical need for maintaining healthy waterways in and around the city.”
The project is a collaborative effort among the WCS Design Department, Portico Group and their consultant team, including Doyle Partners, and the artist of the shimmer wall, Ned Kahn. The Architect of Record is a New York-based firm, Edelman, Sultan Knox Wood. Together, this team represents a variety of extensive experience in designing architectural projects for zoos and aquariums across the country and around the world. WCS's team leadership for the project is headed by Jon Dohlin, WCS Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium; and Susan Chin, AIA, WCS Vice President of Planning and Design & Chief Architect. City funding for “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York City Council and the Brooklyn and Staten Island Borough Presidents. Project funding is managed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
“Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” is part of a larger public-private initiative--A SEA CHANGE--that Mayor Bloomberg and WCS announced in 2009. Other elements of A SEA CHANGE include the New York Aquarium’s New York Seascape program, a conservation program designed to restore healthy populations of local marine species and protect New York City’s waters; the construction of the Marine Wildlife Propagation and Research Center; and renovation of Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef which opened in 2011.
“Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” also adds to the City’s Coney Island Revitalization Plan. Ongoing efforts will preserve and grow the historic amusement area; create a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood with new retail options and nearly 5,000 new units of housing, including 900 income-targeted units; and generate more than 25,000 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs. As part of the plan, the City is investing more than $150 million toward infrastructure improvements in Coney Island, including upgrading infrastructure and rebuilding large sections of the Boardwalk. Last year, New York City Economic Development Corporation in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection, completed an Amended Drainage Plan to guide upgrades to subsurface infrastructure throughout the entire rezoning area, the first phase of which is currently in design and is expected to break ground by the end of 2012. In total, the plan is expected to generate more than $14 billion in economic activity for New York City over 30 years.
To learn more about these exciting developments, read our press release.