By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York Aquarium’s shark exhibit is one of the Coney Island institution’s prime attractions, along with the aquarium’s friendlier otters, seals and walruses. Visitors are fascinated by these beautiful, yet deadly, predators.
Since 2008, the New York Aquarium has been planning to radically renovate its 90,000-gallon shark tank into an exhibit more than four times the size, but problems with funding slowed these plans.
Yesterday, however, a major private gift of $7.5 million from Wildlife Conservation Society trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband, Don Zucker, was announced, along with the design for a new “Ocean Wonder: Sharks!” building, in a ceremony presided over by Mayor Bloomberg.
The City’s Public Design Commission approved the design plan earlier this month for the 57,000-square-foot exhibit building — as part of a public-private initiative between Bloomberg and the Wildlife Conservation Society announced in 2009.
The building will feature 115 species of marine animals including sharks, sting rays, sea turtles, thousands of schooling fish and more. The exhibit will hold more than 500,000 gallons of water.
The groundbreaking is scheduled for October 2012, and the grand opening is anticipated for 2015. The interactive exhibits will bring visitors closer to the animals, highlight rich local seascapes where sharks thrive, and showcase Wildlife Conservation Society shark conservation work.
“Usually, the cry of ‘shark!’ means fewer visitors to the waterfront, but here in Brooklyn, it’ll mean more!” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz at yesterday’s ceremony at the aquarium.
“I was thrilled to support the 'Ocean Wonders: Sharks!' exhibit and other renovations at the New York Aquarium, all of which will make the Aquarium Coney Island’s very own ‘great white’ way.”
“Don and I are proud to be a part of the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ Project,” said Barbara Zucker. “It is vital that people know the importance of conserving wildlife and habitats
The Wildlife Conservation Society, 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,
As for the building façade, it will include a 1,101-foot long shimmering wall constructed of 43,000 individual 4" x 5 1/2" aluminum “flappers”
Other elements of the Aquarium’s planned renovations include the Seascape program, a conservation program designed to restore healthy populations of local marine species; the construction of a Marine Wildlife Propagation and Research Center; and the renovation of Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef.