“The beaches were cold but the warm welcome at the WCS New York Aquarium brought in the crowds,” Jon Forrest Dohlin, Wildlife Conservation Society vice president and director of the New York Aquarium, said in a statement. “We are excited to be back open for Coney Island, Brooklyn and conservation.”
The aquarium suffered extensive damage from surge waters during the hurricane, which completely or partially flooded all buildings at the 14-acre park. The reopening includes exhibits in the conservation hall, outdoor exhibits of Sea Cliffs, Glover’s Reef and a remodeled aquatheater.
At a press preview of the outdoor aquatheater Friday, trainers and sea lions were happy to be back in action for the first time since Sandy. Behind the theater, penguins peeked out and wandered around their cliff exhibit.
New Yorkers and tourists started to form a line outside the aquarium 30 minutes before the 10 a.m. opening on Saturday, with visitors continuing to stream in throughout the day and over the Memorial Day weekend.
Over the next three years the aquarium will be rebuilding and enhancing their exhibits, with plans to open a new exhibit called “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” in spring 2016. Education programs will resume on a limited basis as the aquarium hopes to continue being an education center for schoolchildren throughout the year.
The reopening also will provide a welcome boost for the surrounding damaged community; the aquarium usually generates more than $58 million for the local economy each year.
“We still have a long road ahead of us, but opening our doors will help further the continuing recovery of the community,” Dohlin said. “Everyone who visits us will support the rebuilding of the aquarium and the rest of Coney Island just by visiting and enjoying our exhibits.”