After years of delay following Sandy, New York Aquarium welcomes massive “Sharks!” exhibit

Sharks invade Brooklyn.

After being brought to a screeching halt by the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the ribbon was cut on the New York Aquarium’s long-awaited and massive exhibit, “The Donald Zucker and Barbara Hrbek Zucker Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” on Thursday, June 28.

The exhibit officially opens to the public on Saturday, June 30.

The building, which broke ground in January, 2014, stands at 57,500 square feet, provides visitors from near and far the chance to get up close to 14 species of sharks, learn about their critical role in ocean ecosystems and how vulnerable they are to the actions of humans.

Over 115 species of marine life are included in the exhibit which offers interactive activities, a learning laboratory and more.

The exhibit — which highlights various environments from a Coral Reef to the Hudson Canyon’s Edge, which highlights local species — also features the Ocean Overlook, a panoramic rooftop terrace with ocean views.

“This is a magnificent new exhibit that is designed to get New Yorkers to care about sharks, conservation status, and also to get them engaged and excited about the wildlife right here in New York. To bring people close to that and engaged is a great opportunity,” said Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Vice President and Director of New York Aquarium Jon Forrest Dohlin.

“This exhibit will really allow us to showcase the diversity of the waters around New York and the work we do at WCS all over the world,” added Cristian Samper, president and CEO of WCS. “The ocean is over two-thirds of the planet, yet most of us don’t have that connection beyond Coney Island and the beaches right here, and part of what we’re going to try to do is show people the work we’re doing to help conservation all over the world. It’s a great addition to our work.”

The shark exhibit is the first exhibit since Superstorm Sandy to open in the Aquarium and the biggest renovation done at WCS in about 100 years.

“We were planning to do this exhibit before Sandy. We were supposed to break ground the same week Sandy hit,” Samper added. “We had to put everything on hold, look at the plans, to make sure we were building a facility that could withstand any future hurricanes and we’ve done that.”

According to Dohlin, early designs for the massive exhibit go back 14 years.

“After Sandy, only 40 percent of the Aquarium experience was open to the public so to open this massive, cutting-edge exhibit, is a terrific opportunity for the New York Aquarium to rise above Superstorm Sandy, to take that first step forward to become that aquarium that New York deserves,” he said.

“This aquarium is not only a monument to sharks and monument to conservation, but it’s really a monument to our determination to rebuild after Sandy,” added WCS Executive Vice President and General Director, Zoos and Aquarium James Breheny. “It was such a setback for us. It came right around the time we were going to break ground, and it delayed and complicated things so much. Our team just dug in and stuck with the vision and the goal. It is a spectacular exhibit and the effort was all worth it. We’re so happy to show it to you today.”

Everyone involved in the project hopes to educate visitors about the significance of sharks.

“It’s an important conservation story for us to tell,” said Dohlin. “Sharks are magnificent predators. They are found in every marine habitat around the world and they’re under incredible threat. We’re losing sharks on the order of 100 million animals a year due to targeted fisheries so what we want to do is get people to change their thinking about sharks from something that threatens humans, realize how important they are and how much humans present a threat to them.”

He added that the exhibit gives the aquarium an opportunity to reach 60,000 school kids in New York every year with its education programming and message.

The building was designed to weather future events like Superstorm Sandy,

“We raised the whole building,” said Samper. “We put flood doors all around so we’ve taking lots of steps from a design point of view so we could withstand another hurricane like Sandy.”

The Aquarium is located at 602 Surf Avenue.

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