Groundbreaking to Begin this Fall; Grand Opening Set for 2015 

57,000 Square Foot  Exhibit to Feature Sharks, Rays, Sea Turtles and Thousands of Fish 

August 16, 2012--Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper today unveiled the design and announced new funding for the New York Aquarium “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” building. 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 the Mayor and the Wildlife Conservation Society announced in 2009. The Mayor and Wildlife Conservation Society also announced a major private gift of $7.5 million from Wildlife Conservation Society Trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband, Don Zucker. 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, 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. The Mayor was joined at the New York Aquarium by 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 Barbara and Don Zucker.

“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,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “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 the exhibit’s grand opening.”

“For generations, the New York Aquarium has provided everyone from babies to biologists with access to the remarkable diversity of sea life,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Levin. “Thanks to a public-private partnership, this extraordinary new space will allow the Aquarium to embrace its vibrant waterfront location and attract even more visitors from across Brooklyn and beyond to the revitalized Coney Island.”
“‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ is an important cultural, conservation and economic initiative for the City of New York. Coney Island will soon be home to one of the world’s most spectacular shark exhibits,” said Cristián Samper, Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO. “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.”

“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. “I was thrilled to support the Ocean Wonders: Shark exhibit and other renovations at the New York Aquarium, all of which will make the Aquarium Coney Island’s very own ‘great white’ way. And a big bravo to Barbara and Donald Zucker for their very generous support for this project. I also applaud Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Coney Island himself—Councilmember Domenic Recchia, the Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Aquarium director Jon Dohlin, the Coney Island Development Corporation and president Nate Bliss, Community Board 13 and everyone else who has done such a ‘fin’-tastic job in creating a beautiful, world-class aquarium to further enhance Coney Island’s reputation as a year-round family destination.”

“I would like to thank the Mayor for his continued support of our City’s cultural attractions, from the Staten Island Zoo to the Bronx Zoo,” said Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro. “His efforts have attracted over 50 million tourists to New York City in the last year. Today we’re here to celebrate the New York Aquarium, a wonderful institution that is a favorite of tourists and residents alike, and I once again thank Mayor Bloomberg for his dedication to this great attraction.”

“New York City residents, including myself, have enjoyed many memorable moments at the New York Aquarium and I am certain that there will be many more in store after the establishment of the Shark Tank,” said Council Member Recchia. “It is both an honor and a privilege to stand here today and announce this incredibly vital investment, which will allow the Aquarium to continue to serve as one of New York’s premiere destinations.”

“Don and I are proud to be a part of the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’ Project,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Trustee Barbara Zucker. “It is vital that people know the importance of conserving wildlife and habitats. With ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!’, the Wildlife Conservation Society 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 “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” building and design will feature 115 species of marine animals including sharks, 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 immersive and interactive exhibits will bring visitors close to the animals, highlight rich local seascapes where sharks thrive and showcase Wildlife Conservation Society shark conservation work. The building façade on the oceanside will include a 1,101-foot long “shimmer” wall constructed of 43,000 individual 4" x 5 1/2" aluminum flappers 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.

The project is a collaborative effort among 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 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. Wildlife Conservation Society’s team leadership for the project is headed by Jon Dohlin, Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President and Director of the New York Aquarium; and Susan Chin, AIA, Wildlife Conservation Society 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 that Mayor Bloomberg and Wildlife Conservation Society 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.

The “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” building at the New York Aquarium is one more addition 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.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. The Wildlife Conservation Society is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. The New York Aquarium and Bronx Zoo are located on property owned by the City of New York, and their operation is made possible, in part, by public funds provided annually through the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. 


Stu Loeser/Julie Wood (212) 788-2958
Danai Pointer/Ryan Max (Cultural Affairs) (212) 513-9322
Mary Dixon (New York Aquarium) (347) 840-1242