Sharks! Stand Back: Zero Feet
It’s time to get nose-to-nose with the ocean’s top predators
Coney Island, NY, June 30, 2018 -- The stunning new Donald Zucker and Barbara Hrbek Zucker Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit opened today at the New York Aquarium.
The three-story, 57,500-square-foot exhibit building, with 9 dynamic galleries, will drive awareness of the importance of sharks to the health of the world’s ocean; educate visitors about the severe threats sharks face; and inspire guests to protect the surprisingly diverse and beautiful marine wildlife here in New York.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors, and tens of thousands of students in the aquarium’s education programs will learn to value and protect our ocean. The exhibit includes 18 species of sharks and rays and more than 115 other species of marine life. It is the first exhibit that focuses on the marine life found in the New York Bight from Cape May, NJ, to Montauk, NY. In July 2013 the NYC Public Design Commission recognized Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, with an Award for Design Excellence.
The opening today of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! marked a monumental event for ocean, shark and marine life lovers.
Said Mayor de Blasio: “We’re celebrating a remarkable new facility where New Yorkers can learn more about – and be delighted by – our ocean-dwelling neighbors. But we’re also celebrating another big step toward recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The New York Aquarium brings the wonders of the sea to our doorstep, and we’re proud to have made a major investment in its restoration.”
Cristian Samper, President and CEO of WCS said: “The opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a transformative moment for the New York Aquarium. The exhibit inspires awe and admiration for sharks and opens our visitors’ eyes to what they truly are – keystone species in the world’s ocean which, as top predators, helps to regulate the populations of other species, bringing a vital balance to a healthy ocean. The exhibit will connect millions of visitors with the wildlife and habitats in New York waters and expands the Wildlife Conservation Society's global commitment to shark and ray conservation.
“We want to thank the administrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Mike Bloomberg; the New York City Council including current and former Council Members Mark Treyger and Domenic Recchia; current and former Brooklyn Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Marty Markowitz; former Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro; and the Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
“We further extend great appreciation to WCS life trustee Barbara Hrbek Zucker and her husband, Donald Zucker, the entire WCS Board of Trustees and other private donors who have generously contributed to the building of Oceans Wonders: Sharks!. Both the public and private supporters of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! have shown strategic leadership advancing the imperative that we must protect sharks, their habitats and our ocean.”
Said New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl: “The opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a tremendous milestone for the New York Aquarium, the Coney Island community, and all of New York. Here is a new symbol of the creativity, resiliency, and determination of our city in the face of climate change, and of a deep appreciation for the natural world. “We are proud that our significant investment in one of NYC’s beloved cultural institutions has helped to create an extraordinary new space to explore timely issues related to wildlife conservation, and to educate the next generation about the amazing world we live in and the astonishing creatures we share it with.”
Said James Patchett, President and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC): “We’ve been making big investments across Coney Island in everything from affordable housing to new amusements to infrastructure upgrades. Today we’re proud to add ‘sharks’ to that list. Investing in our cultural institutions is critical to our ongoing neighborhood investments, and we’re thrilled to see this iconic exhibit build on the momentum in Coney Island.”
Said City Councilmember Mark Treyger: “The incredible Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Exhibit is a beautiful and welcome new addition to an already expansive array of attractions at the beloved New York Aquarium. Much like our community here in Coney Island and the Aquarium itself, sharks are resilient creatures, but they need our help. I am proud to support this project that will raise awareness among New Yorkers young and old about the need to better protect our marine ecosystems and local wildlife.”
Said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams: "Sharks! Coney Island is making waves once again with the long-anticipated debut of the New York Aquarium's latest ocean wonders. My administration was so proud to help fund this incredible exhibit, which will have shark enthusiasts 'chomping at the bit' to get down to America's Playground, all while expanding our appreciation for their critical role to our regional ecosystem."
Said Speaker of the New York City Council Corey Johnson: “Looks like it’ll be shark week permanently in Coney Island with the opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! at the New York Aquarium. The aquarium does so much to educate New Yorkers and tourists alike about the wonders of marine life and I’m sure this stunning new exhibit will be as inspiring and entertaining as it is informative. The City Council is proud to support Ocean Wonders: Sharks! and all that the New York Aquarium and the Wildlife Conservation Society do for our city.”
"We are ecstatic about the opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! as the newest addition to the Coney Island Boardwalk. We look forward to having local Brooklynites and visitors experience the breathtaking exhibits and learn about the ocean and wildlife right here in Coney Island," said Alexandra Silversmith, Executive Director of the Alliance for Coney Island.
Ocean Wonders: Sharks! and its supporting Animal Care Facility is a public-private project with an estimated cost of $158 million ($111 million from New York City, and $47 million from generous private funders and tax exempt financing). When fully restored from Hurricane Sandy (in 2020), the New York Aquarium, which was devastated by the storm, is expected to generate over $80 million annually in direct and indirect economic activity, of which Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is estimated to contribute over $20 million.
Jon Forrest Dohlin, Director of the New York Aquarium and WCS Vice President said: “Our new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit will awaken New Yorkers to the magnificence and importance of the ocean here in New York. We tell the 400 million-year-old story of sharks and their critical role in marine ecosystems as a lead-in to bring New Yorkers back to an awareness and appreciation for the heritage we share in the wildlife that surrounds us right here in this city of islands.
“We hope that the pride and sense of wonder instilled by Ocean Wonders: Sharks! translate into stewardship for our oceans.”
Jim Breheny, WCS EVP of Zoos & Aquarium and Director of the Bronx Zoo said, “Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a perfect example of the higher purpose of zoos and aquariums -- the conservation of wildlife and wild places. You can’t go through this exhibit -- where you can find yourself just inches from a shark -- and not be inspired to join our efforts to save sharks and the ocean.”
Home of Marine Science
Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a platform that illustrates the power of the New York Aquarium’s marine conservation efforts, the New York Seascape program. It showcases the conservation work of New York Aquarium scientists both in the field and at the aquarium. Objectives of the conservation program include: securing habitat protection for juvenile sand tiger sharks; tagging sharks to study their migration patterns and promoting better management of their fisheries; developing the science for successful propagation of sand tiger sharks at the aquarium; increasing the monitoring of great whale migrations in and out of New York waters to reduce ship strikes; and working with the offshore wind energy industry to create guidelines for the protection of marine mammals. Worldwide WCS invests in ocean protection, sustainable fisheries and marine conservation.
Education As a Priority
The aquarium’s Education Department is taking full advantage of the power of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! to build programs that inspire guests of the aquarium, and the millions of tourists on the nearby boardwalk and beach. About 60,000 youth and adults are anticipated to participate each year in the aquarium’s education programs. The Oceanview Learning Laboratory located on the top floor of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is a 1,500-square-foot education space with ocean views and an outdoor terrace. The aquarium’s education team will provide live interpretation throughout the exhibit; a rooftop touch tank; dive talks; a new overnight program; and a re-imagined summer camp.
The Oceanview Learning Laboratory was made possible by Ann and Andrew Tisch.
The Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Architecture
Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, a new iconic addition to the New York City skyline, interprets the wonders of the ocean, creating a structure that is inspired by nature with a façade that is alive and visually magnetic. Rising seamlessly from the famed Coney Island boardwalk in sweeping curves, the dramatic design is the product of a team headed by WCS’ Susan Chin, Vice President of Planning & Design and Chief Architect, FAIA, in collaboration with Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/Architects, Doyle Partners, and Seattle-based interdisciplinary design firm, The Portico Group. The organic form of the building cantilevers over the boardwalk, creating a new and dynamic relationship between the New York Aquarium and the surrounding community and forming unique gathering spaces for the boardwalk visitor. The kinetic beauty of the 1,100-foot-long Shimmer Wall wraps around the fluid forms of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! building, creating a dynamic structure that is ever-changing and driven by the forces of nature. Designed in collaboration with visual artist Ned Kahn, the Shimmer Wall is constructed of more than 33,000 4” x 5 ½” aluminum flappers that move individually with the wind. Ocean Wonders: Sharks! has received a LEED Silver Certification, achieved through multiple strategies related to water efficiency, sustainable sites, energy use and materials. The project was recognized by the New York City Public Design Commission with an Award for Excellence in Design.
Said Chin: “The architecture evokes the natural world and reflects the function within; an engaging exhibit that connects people to the ocean and inspires their stewardship. Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is transformative in many ways for the New York Aquarium and Coney Island’s community and visitors.”
Sustainable Seafood and Plastic-Free Retail
As part of the message and the mission of Ocean Wonders: Sharks! the New York Aquarium will now sell only sustainable seafood options, use green packaging and focus on eliminating all single-use plastic including straws, cups, bags and other items in its restaurants and retail outlets. The aquarium has partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium in selecting seafood and merchandise options to ensure the sustainability of food options and to minimize the use of plastics in packaging, utensils, and merchandise. Single-use plastic is polluting our waterways across the globe, damaging habitats and bringing great harm to wildlife.
The Financing of Ocean Wonders: Sharks!
Ocean Wonders: Sharks! and its supporting Animal Care Facility has an estimated cost of $158 million ($111 million from New York City, and $47 million through private funding and tax exempt financing). When fully restored from Hurricane Sandy (in 2020), the aquarium, which was devastated by the storm, is expected to generate over $80 million annually in direct and indirect economic activity, of which Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is estimated to contribute over $20 million. The aquarium is expected to employ the full-time equivalent of almost 300 jobs of which more than 80 would be attributed to Ocean Wonders: Sharks!
The project was generously supported by several private and institutional funders. We are deeply grateful to Donald Zucker and Barbara Hrbek Zucker and to Ann and Andrew Tisch for their leadership gifts to the Campaign for the New York Aquarium, as well as The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Achelis and Bodman Foundation, The Prospect Hill Foundation, Dow, Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, Inc., The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, The Barker Welfare Foundation, Darlene and Brian Heidtke, and National Grid.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium
The WCS New York Aquarium is located in Coney Island, NY. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it is open every day of the year. For more information go to www.nyaquarium.com.
Donald Zucker and Barbara Hrbek Zucker Ocean Wonders: Sharks! at the New York Aquarium
Situated on 14 acres by the sea in Coney Island, the New York Aquarium’s exhibits, public events, educational programs and local conservation science all work together to inspire the public to protect and save aquatic wildlife around the world with a special emphasis on the diversity and beauty of habitats and wildlife right here in the waters of New York. The aquarium strives to foster an environment where people understand the fragility of aquatic ecosystems and the critical role the oceans play in human livelihoods and well-being.
The Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit brings visitors up close to a diverse group of sharks, demonstrating their critical role in ocean ecosystems and how vulnerable they are to the actions of humans. The exhibit features panoramic rooftop ocean views of some of New York’s beautiful and varied coastline habitats.
A new 57,500-square-foot building will house an exciting shark exhibit that creates a sense of awe of the ocean, an urgency and concern for the ocean’s health, and will reconnect New Yorkers to their local waters, encouraging them to become active stewards of that ocean wilderness. With more than 800,000 gallons of water, this new exhibit building will house more than 115 species within a variety of unique and complementary exhibits. Interactive presentations of the local conservation work being done by the aquarium’s New York Seascape Program, this exhibit will educate and inspire visitors with representations of the amazing ocean ecosystems that surround them and a dynamic collection of the charismatic marine species that are found in local waters.
Boardwalk Level Spaces
The organic form of the building undulates across the line of the boardwalk, creating a new and dynamic relationship between the New York Aquarium and the surrounding community by forming unique gathering spaces for the boardwalk visitor. At the western end of the building a rock and sculpture garden is formed by terraced planters filled with local grasses and shrubs that appear to flow from within the Aquarium. Benches offer an opportunity to pause along the boardwalk, people watch, and see the ocean. Sculptures of marine life are peppered throughout the rock garden. Visitors can use interactive “viewscopes” to see amazing local wildlife such as sharks, whales, and sea turtles that can be found beneath the surface of the great blue ocean that is before them.
The Oceanside Grille presents an opportunity to enjoy sustainably sourced seafood or a cold drink, and provides a means of reaching millions of Boardwalk visitors with a message of conservation, sustainability and choice. A covered seating area at the east-end provides shade and views out to the ocean.
Clad in a shimmering spiral, the ramp is more than just circulation, it is a place to view the ocean and learn more about local ecology. Punctuated with interpretive graphics along the way, it is a continuation of the exhibit experience that takes you on a journey through our coastal habitats and culminates in a series of gathering spaces.
The Ocean Overlook provides an expansive view of the Coney Island boardwalk, beach, and surrounding New York waters. Visitors will be able to see important local habitats such as Sandy Hook. Comfortable seating and shade will give visitors an opportunity to relax with a view of the ocean. At the new Touch Pool on the Ocean Overlook, kids will have the opportunity for hands-on learning about the local marine animals through a staff facilitated experience.
Another key element of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! program is the Oceanview Learning Laboratory. This 1,500 square foot education space has ocean views and a separate outdoor terrace, giving classes access to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Designed with flexibility in mind but outfitted with marine artifacts, this space will help support the education goals of the New York Seascape Program. Education groups will also have direct access to the adjacent Touch Pool experience, and the Oceanview Terrace. Accessible by both private elevator and staircase entry, and containing support facilities of bathrooms and prep space, the Oceanview Learning Laboratory also has potential as a small event venue for intimate dinners or luncheons. The entire rooftop level will be an excellent location for cocktail receptions and other special events.
The Oceanview Terrace was made possible by Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, Inc.
Coral Reef Tunnel
Visitors will walk through an immersive underwater tunnel that features a visually rich reef ecosystem with sharks and schooling fish swimming overhead and all around them. The beauty of the coral reef and the jewel-like quality of its diverse wildlife will help visitors to forge an emotional bond with the animals and help them understand the interconnectivity of reef ecosystems. Visitors will also be introduced to the role that sharks play in keeping ocean ecosystems healthy.
Sharks Up Close
In this highly interactive gallery, visitors can explore the diversity, unique physiology and behavior of sharks and rays. Using an array of tactics including live animals, video, interactive media, mechanical interactives, and compelling graphics, visitors will learn about the different ways sharks and rays reproduce, how they breathe, how they move, and the amazing number of different forms the more than 350 species take. This gallery will be a place to explore, discover, and learn more about these remarkable animals. Visitors will be able to get nose-to-nose with several smaller species of sharks including epaulette and white spot bamboo sharks.
Shark Generations was made possible by The Prospect Hill Foundation.
Sharks In Peril
Some of the biological attributes of sharks, in particular their reproduction methods and slow growth rate, are the reason they are so vulnerable to overfishing. Visitors will encounter a dim, oppressive space filled with nets that will focus primarily on the threats of bycatch and finning, and show how commercial and recreational shark fisheries are contributing to the decimation of many shark species—and how these biological attributes make it so hard for them to rebound from overfishing. Finning (the process of removing a shark’s fins for soup), and sharks’ high rate of incidental bycatch for non-shark fisheries, have reduced many species by up to 90%. But there is hope—through the exhibit building, visitors will be introduced to organizations, like WCS, that are doing important science that contributes to conservation policy and saving sharks around the world.
Discover New York Waters
This dramatic and vibrant exhibit gallery will highlight the amazing, but little-known, marine ecosystems found off the coast of New York—ecosystems that are biologically diverse and rich with marine life. Visitors will learn why the geography and current patterns of the New York coast create a unique set of conditions that allow for hundreds of species to use these waters as nurseries, pupping and foraging grounds, and migratory corridors. A 62,000-gallon exhibit will feature several New York shark species as well as a huge abundance of rays swimming against bright outcroppings covered with colorful anemones. Interactive panels surrounding the tank help showcase the sheer number of species that travel through New York waters as well as discuss the issues that can arise when humans and wildlife share the same spaces.
This gallery will also introduce our NY Seascape initiative that is focusing on shark conservation here in New York waters.
Discover New York Waters was given in recognition of Elizabeth W. Flowers and Rebecca W. Flowers.
New York Seascape
Within New York Waters, an interactive gallery space shows how WCS scientists are using tagging and tracking to save sharks both here in New York and in oceans around the world. Visitors will be able to assume the role of a scientist to see how WCS tags sharks in the wild. A WCS scientist will be featured, showing visitors how tagging and tracking sand tiger sharks happens in the wild. A colorful and enticing interactive wall allows visitors to see how the information we learn from those tracked animals is used to develop conservation strategies aimed at halting the precipitous decline of shark species both locally and globally.
New York Seascape was made possible by Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation.
Migratory Tunnel was made possible by The Barker Welfare Foundation.
After seeing up-close some of the remarkable natural habitats of New York, visitors will be able to experience another type of local habitat made not by nature but by humans. New York waters are home to many shipwrecks that act as aggregators of marine life, places where sharks and other fish gather to hunt. Visitors will walk through the hull of a local shipwreck, representing one of the more than 60 wrecks found along the New York coastline. Dark armatures and shifting light create a sense of being underwater. A hole in the wreck’s hull expose areas where sharks swim overhead. Another opening shows a cave where nurse sharks can be found and other views from the shipwreck reveal some of the other species found in wrecks, smaller animals that attract larger ones.
Visitors emerge from the wreck to discover an inspiring view of the edge of the Hudson Canyon, a marine canyon similar in size and depth to the Grand Canyon, that begins at the mouth of the Hudson River and extends hundreds of miles off shore. Large sand tiger sharks swim slowly into the well-lit foreground closest to the visitor and then disappear into the depths of the seemingly limitless ocean. Currents carefully located on the sandy ledge and directly in front of the viewing area will create resting places for nurse sharks and give visitors a nose-to-nose encounter. Schooling fish and large rays show the richness and diversity of this near-shore ecosystem. The goal of this affective experience is to create a sense of awe and wonder for sharks. Available seating will allow guests a more extended and potentially meditative experience with sharks.
The location of Coney Island at the shore—the point where the city meets the ocean—has inspired a highly interactive exhibit space that will emphasize New York City’s connection to the ocean and to empower visitors with reachable conservation goals and choices. Using touchable and interactive media, we will show visitors that the lifestyle choices they make can influence pollution and the health of the ocean’s fish stocks. With a background that mimics our local cityscape, visitors can learn how plastics affect the ocean, what happens to pollution run-off, how to choose sustainable seafood, and how they themselves can become advocates for a cleaner, healthier ocean. Linking the “ocean” side of the exhibit with the “city” side of the exhibit is a bright colorful eelgrass bed tank populated by gentle seahorses and other coastal marine animals showing visitors how far we have come as a city in changing our attitude towards the ocean and how working for a cleaner coastline has allowed for these delicate species to once again thrive here in New York.
New York Streetscape was made possible by Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Eelgrasses & Seahorses was made possible by The Achelis and Bodman Foundation.
Ocean Cleanup was made possible by Dow.
As visitors exit the building, the exhibit experience continues as they make their way up the ramp to the Ocean Viewing Deck. Interpretive nodes along the ramp will give visitors an opportunity to learn about the ecological history of Coney Island, point out critical nearby ecosystems such as Jamaica Bay and Sandy Hook, and help them identify local wildlife including birds, sharks, and marine mammals that travel these waters. As visitors gain elevation, breathtaking and expansive ocean views are revealed. The ramp is not only circulation but a place to see the ocean and learn more about the wildlife that thrives just off shore.
Total Building: 57,500 sq.ft
Total system gallons:784,000 gal
Canyon’s Edge: 600,000 gal
Total of 9 galleries
Estimated Total # of Species: 115+
Shimmer wall 1,100 linear feet
33,000 aluminum tiles
Height above Plaza:
51’-6” to top of Classroom
67’-11” to top of shimmer wall
Height above Boardwalk:
44’-0” to top of Classroom
60’-5” to top of shimmer wall.
From the 3rd floor Classroom and Café you can clearly see Sandy Hook, NJ
Acrylic: more than 150 linerar feet
13’-0” wide x 9’ tall x 40’-0” long x 5” thick
Coral Tunnel used approx. 2,193 pieces of artificial coral
49’ diameter (outside) x 9’ tall x 3.3” thick
54’-0” long x 14’ tall x 8.9” thick
12 species of sharks, and 6 species of skates and rays.
Sand Tiger Sharks
Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks
White Spotted Bamboo Sharks
Whitetip Reef Sharks
Blacktip Reef Sharks
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Miscellaneous schooling fish
The building and the exhibit were designed in a collaborative effort between the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Design Department, the Architect of Record, Edelman, Sultan Knox Wood, and their consultant team including the Portico Group, Doyle Partners and the artist of the shimmer wall, Ned Kahn. Together, this team represents a large multi-disciplinary expertise that has extensive experience in designing architectural projects for zoos and aquariums across the country and around the world.
The WCS provides team leadership for the project and is headed by Susan Chin, FAIA, Vice President of Planning and Design & Chief Architect. Ms. Chin, a registered architect with more than 20 years of design and construction experience, leads the Design Department at WCS consisting of registered architects, graphic designers, exhibit designers and exhibit developers who have worked on such notable projects as the Snow Leopard exhibit at Central Park Zoo, Center for Global Conservation and the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo.
The Architect of Record is the New York based firm of Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects LLP (ESKW) who bring to the table a high level of local design and construction knowledge. ESKW is a well established practice with a history of successful institutional, residential and commercial projects. Randy Wood, AIA is the Principal-In-Charge. WCS and ESKW have collaborated in the past on award winning projects such as the Eco Restroom at the Bronx Zoo.
Other Key Consultants:
Shimmer wall artist
The Portico Group
K & L Consulting Engineers
Viridian Energy & Environmental, LLC
Leonard J. Strandberg and Associates
Focus Lighting Inc.
Lighting (Base building and Exhibit lighting)
Life Support Systems Engineering
Groundbreaking: January 10, 2014
Topping out June 23, 2015
Opening date: June 30, 2018