New York Aquarium

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The New York Aquarium is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City. It was founded at Castle Garden in Battery Park, Manhattan in 1896, and moved to Coney Island in 1957. The aquarium is operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as part of its integrated system of four zoos and one aquarium, most notably the Bronx Zoo. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). As part of WCS, the aquarium’s mission is to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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The facility occupies 14 acres (5.7 ha) and boasts 266 species of aquatic wildlife. Its mission is to raise public awareness about issues facing the ocean and its inhabitants with special exhibits, public events and research. The New York Seascape program, based out of the aquarium, is WCS’s local conservation program designed to restore healthy populations of marine species and protect New York waters, which are vital to the area’s economic and cultural vitality.

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The Aquarium lasted in the Battery until 1941 when it was relocated to Coney Island because of the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (The Aquarium’s inhabitants were temporarily housed at the Bronx Zoo.) The New York Aquarium opened on the Coney Island boardwalk on June 6, 1957, part of a larger plan to revitalize the area. The entire project cost $9 million and used 1.25 million gallons of water. When the aquarium was opened, a New York Zoological Society brochure on the facility boasted “many hundreds of fish species, marine and fresh water, tropical, temperate and arctic, beautiful, weird and downright hideous.” A big attraction, the facility served over 400,000 school children during the first school season it was open.

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Today’s Aquarium fulfills the wider goals of the Wildlife Conservation Society by raising public awareness about environmental issues facing the ocean and its ecosystem. The Aquarium’s Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences (OLMS) has been involved in studies looking at dolphin cognition, satellite tagging of sharks and coral reefs. The Aquarium also is home to one of Coney Island’s most important public artworks, the 332-foot long, ten-foot tall cast-concrete “Symphony of the Sea” sculpture wall by artist Toshio Sasaki (one of the eight finalists of the Ground Zero Memorial competition) that was installed on the boardwalk outside the Aquarium in 1992. The free-standing wall features terrazzo and ceramic shapes with motifs of ocean waves, fishes, and zygotes evocative of the evolution of marine life. The four-ton piece was sponsored by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, and was installed to celebrate the Aquarium’s Sea Cliffs Exhibition.

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The Coral Tunnel at the New York Aquarium.

The New York Aquarium remains a must-see destination on Coney Island’s celebrated boardwalk. The newest, award-winning exhibit—Ocean Wonders: Sharks!—holds more than 500,000 gallons of water, and contains interactive and immersive exhibits that put you nine inches away from 18 species of sharks and a hundred other marine species. Highlighting the amazing wildlife right off our New York shores, this year-round attraction is dedicated to teaching us all about the world of sharks, the important role they play and the threats they face.

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Harbor seal pup Murphy, who was born at the aquarium on July 28.

Coney Island’s New York Aquarium will reopen for the public on Aug. 27, welcoming guests back to the Surf Avenue marine life emporium after five months of closure due to the pandemic. “We are thrilled to once again welcome guests back to the aquarium,” said New York Aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin in a statement Tuesday. The aquarium, which closed in March 16 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is back with a new exhibit called “Spineless” focusing on the weird creatures of the sea without backbones, such as octopus, squids, and jellyfish, according to Dohlin. Visitors will also get to meet the adorable new seal and sea lion pups that were born at the southern Brooklyn tank during the closure!

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“Spineless” a new exhibit will highlight animals without backbones that inhabit the ocean, such as this Giant Pacific Octopus.

As with many reopenings, visitors will have to adhere to strict health and safety guidelines, including wearing a mask or face covering for anybody age three or older and socially distancing throughout the park. The organization will only sell tickets for a specific date and time — no walk-up admission — to limit the amount of guests at one time. The traditional free admittance on Wednesday afternoons will continue from Sept. 2 onward, but those timed tickets will also need to be ordered online in advance.

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Staff will increase cleaning protocols, especially in high-touch areas, and the organization has moved all day camps and education programs online, according to aquarium officials.Nade sent Yesterday at 11:37Director Dohlin praised his staff for maintaining the park at the People’s Playground during the long closure, saying they were to thank for bringing it back.

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“As we reopen, I want to offer special thanks to our essential staff who have been working every day since the closure in March to provide world-class care for our animals while keeping park operations running smoothly,” he said. “They are a credit to our organization and are looking forward to once again receiving visitors at the aquarium.”

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