But director says progress has been made
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Superstorm Sandy caused so much damage to the New York Aquarium that parts of the facility remained closed a year after the hurricane came ashore in Coney Island, according to its director.
Jon Forrest Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium, said much of the Coney Island-based entertainment and educational complex has been repaired and rebuilt but that more work needs to be done to bring the facility back to pre-Sandy levels.
Dohlin, who is also vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization which runs the Aquarium, issued a statement on Oct. 29, the first anniversary of the superstorm.
“On this first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Wildlife Conservation Society is thankful for all of the support we received over the past year as we have moved from recovery to rebuilding and transforming the New York Aquarium,” he said.
The New York Aquarium, located at 602 Surf Ave. in Coney Island, was closed for several months after Sandy. It reopened some of its exhibits in May. “Although progress has been made, the devastation was so severe that much work still needs to be done to fully restore the Aquarium. Parts of the Aquarium remain closed because damaged electrical and life support systems critical to maintain animals need to be replaced,” he said.
The areas that are still off-limits include Explore the Shore, Alien Stingers, and underwater viewing areas at Sea Cliffs.
The Wildlife Conservation Society is working with city, state and federal governments on full restoration, Dohlin said.
“We are aware that many of our neighbors – families and businesses – continue to recover and we strive to ensure the New York Aquarium’s comeback will help our community become more vibrant than ever. The aquarium is important to the economy of New York City, to the education of our city's school children, and to the conservation of the nearby ocean and waterways,” Dohlin said.
A fully functioning Aquarium will be able to pump tens of millions of dollars into the city’s economy, according to Dohlin. “Annually, we have contributed more than $58 million worth of economic activity into the community. We traditionally have served 750,000 guests each year. Since we partially re-opened in May, more than 350,000 guests have visited the aquarium,” he said.
The storm hit just days before the Aquarium was to hold a groundbreaking for a new shark exhibit: Ocean Wonders: Sharks!
“The partnership between WCS and the city of New York for the planned expansion continue to move forward while we simultaneously rebuild,” Dohlin said. “We look forward to celebrating with the community the opening of a fully transformed New York Aquarium in 2016."
The New York Aquarium was established in 1896, according to the Parks Department’s website, which stated that it is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the US. In the early years of the Aquarium’s existence, it housed 150 specimens. Today, the Aquarium is home to over 350 species of aquatic wildlife and over 8,000 specimens. First housed in lower Manhattan, it has been located in Coney Island since 1957.