Chamber celebrates the Aquarium, gets a glimpse of its future

July 30, 2015 Meaghan McGoldrick
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The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce convened in Coney Island on Wednesday, July 15 to celebrate the New York Aquarium – and its latest venture, a $157 million, three-story exhibit called Ocean Wonders: Sharks! – as one of the borough’s next great destinations.

“It’s a beautiful building and it’s an iconic structure that we hope will really help to define the Coney Island skyline,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, Aquarium director and vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), during a virtual tour of the exhibit, which comes complete with its own building, and the Aquarium’s first-ever connection with the Riegelmann Boardwalk.

“[This exhibit] will really start a dialogue with the Boardwalk,” he said, stressing that, as well as having more than 45 sharks inhabiting three 500,000-gallon tanks, the shiny new building will include public amenities such as shade, seating and even a concession area to be connected with the Boardwalk.

The 57,000 square-foot exhibit will also come complete with both a roof deck and a built-in classroom.

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Once inside Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, families will be greeted by a number of stunning displays (many of them interactive) and as many as 100 species of marine animals, both local and from around the world, including sharks, sea turtles, rays and more.

Guests will be greeted first, Dohlin said, by a tunnel that will take them through a vibrant display of coral reefs, before continuing on their way and stepping into the “New York [they] don’t know.”

“We all want to save the coral reefs and, if we understand that sharks are critical to the health of coral reefs, we begin to understand how critical sharks are to all habitats and, in fact, to the ocean itself,” he said.

A number of local dignitaries followed Dohlin with sentiments of both support and gratitude, not only in anticipation of the new exhibit, but in appreciation of the New York Aquarium as a whole.

“I believe that this is really one of New York City’s most treasured gems,” lauded Chamber President and CEO Carlo Scissura, noting that, to him, it’s always been the “Brooklyn Aquarium.

“It is a place that embodies what is so, so great about Brooklyn,” he added.

Scissura urged audience members not only to make use of the space but also to donate to it.

“How many cities in America can have everything, including an Aquarium?” he said.

Andrew Gounardes, speaking on behalf of Borough President Eric Adams, echoed Scissura.

“Carlo said it; Coney Island is where it’s at and this is where the future of Brooklyn is going to be,” he said. “This is not the Coney Island our grandparents and great grandparents came to for summer vacation or for their honeymoon. The Aquarium is a year-round destination and we are turning Coney Island into a year-round destination.”

There is certainly year-round demand for the Aquarium, according to Coney Island Councilmember Mark Treyger.

“Over the past two years, we’ve had about 40 percent of our Aquarium open,” he said, adding that most of the space’s major attractions have been closed since Superstorm Sandy, “and, still, we’ve had over half a million visitors a year, which I think speaks to the pent-up demand in this city for a public aquarium, for the services we provide and for a willingness to take children to experience something that has a power far beyond entertainment.”

The new exhibit, Dohlin said, is slated to open sometime in 2016.

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