Aquarium is certainly not the first thought when we think of a New York City. But the New York Aquarium is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, having opened in Castle Garden in Battery Park, Manhattan in 1896. Since 1957, it has been located on the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn. 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.
The facility occupies 14 acres 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.
Some interesting species that you can see in New York aquarium:
- Black-footed Penguin
- California Sea Lion
- Cownose Ray
- Green Moray Eel
- Harbor Seal
- Pacific Walrus
- Sand Tiger Shark
- Sea Otter
History of New York Aquarium
The New York Aquarium opened on December 10, 1896, at Castle Garden in Battery Park. Its first director was Tarleton Hoffman Bean (1895–1898). He was also part of creating many more similar wild life Organizations/Aquariums/Protected areas. On October 31, 1902, the Aquarium was adopted into the care of what was then the New York Zoological Society. At the time, the Aquarium housed only 150 specimens of wildlife. Over time, its most famous director, the distinguished zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend, enlarged the collections considerably, and the Aquarium attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. A towering figure in New York Zoological Society and New York Aquarium history, Townsend served as the Aquarium’s director for 30 years. Townsend’s work with whaling bans, Galápagos tortoiseconservation and the development of aquarium technology are on par with the work of William Temple Hornaday.
Early in October 1941, the Aquarium at Battery Park was controversially closed based on claims of NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses that the proposed construction of a tunnel from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn might undermine Castle Clinton’s foundation. Many of the Aquarium’s sea creatures were temporarily housed at the Bronx Zoo until the new aquarium was built after World War II. On June 6, 1957, the Aquarium opened its doors at its new location in Coney Island, Brooklyn. A notable director of the Aquarium was James Arthur Oliver, who was director from 1970 until 1976. Oliver also held directorships at the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History during his career – the only person to have been director of all three institutions. The aquarium kept an orca briefly in 1968 and a narwhal in 1969. Both reportedly died of pneumonia.
The aquarium’s beluga whales were transferred to the Georgia Aquarium in 2007 as part of a breeding program.In September 2011, the aquarium named its new electric eel Wattson, and in March 2012, it launched a sea horse breeding program.
Huriccane Sandy aftermath
The New York Aquarium was significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 which severely flooded the facility and shut down power. A small group of WCS staff who remained onsite during the hurricane were able to save 90 percent of the animals in the collection.
A massive new expansion comprising its extensive addition, Ocean Wonders: Sharks! has broken ground in January 2014, and is scheduled to open in 2018. This expansion was originally scheduled to break ground in November 2012, and open in 2015, but construction was delayed by Hurricane Sandy.