Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY July 1, 2022 – Today, the New York Aquarium held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the first time since Superstorm Sandy that all aquarium exhibits and public spaces are fully open.

NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo, and other leaders joined New York Aquarium officials to celebrate the full reopening of New York City’s only aquarium. The event also served as the official opening of Sea Change, a new exhibit themed around our changing climate and the effect it has on marine ecosystems and ocean life.

In addition to the grand reopening and the opening of the Sea Change the New York Aquarium has joined a commitment with a consortium of public aquariums to work toward carbon neutrality in its operations. The commitment was made in support of the U.S. contribution to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees by 2050.

“Today is a significant milestone in the recovery of New York City’s only aquarium,” said John F Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. “The devastation from Superstorm Sandy a decade ago is almost unimaginable when looking today at the beautiful exhibits and thriving marine wildlife. As a cornerstone of the Coney Island community and an important economic driver, it is a wonderful feeling to be fully reopened.”

“This reopening is testament to the resiliency of the New York Aquarium, the staff, the Coney Island community, and the City of New York,” said Craig Piper, Director of WCS City Zoos and Interim Director of the New York Aquarium. “Not only have we now fully reopened our exhibits, but we have also upgraded much of the aquarium’s infrastructure and critical systems to ensure we are better prepared to withstand future storms.”

NEW EXHIBIT OPENING – SEA CHANGE: The ceremonial ribbon-cutting and grand reopening event also marked the opening of Sea Change, a new exhibit that tells the story of our changing climate and the effect it has on marine ecosystems and ocean life. Sea Change occupies the space beneath the Sea Cliffs exhibit and features underwater viewing of the California sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and African penguins. This is the final public exhibit to reopen from damage incurred by Superstorm Sandy.

On October 28, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the New York/New Jersey coast causing destructive flooding to the New York Aquarium, Coney Island, the City of New York and countless coastal neighborhoods across the tri-state area. For the past decade, the New York Aquarium has been working with FEMA, NY State, and NY City to rebuild the landmark attraction.

Each building and exhibit had to be restored one at a time in order to ensure the health and safety of the animals. Improvements were made to the aquarium infrastructure to protect vital systems from future storms. Water pumps, filters, and other elements of the critical life support systems were moved above flood level. And generators have been installed to ensure power outages do not take down needed systems.

Said U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries: “From opening the eyes, minds and hearts of young and old to our ocean’s sea life and teaching about the threats of climate change, the New York Aquarium is a vital cultural institution for Brooklyn, New York City, State and the entire nation. Through rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy and closing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I look forward to spending many days at the Aquarium and thank them for all they do and have done for our community.”

Said New York State Governor Kathy Hochul: “After Superstorm Sandy devastated our communities, New York State committed to leading a transformative, inclusive recovery. Today's reopening of the New York Aquarium is an exciting milestone, showing how far we've come thanks to the hard work of community leaders and our partners in New York City and FEMA. Never bet against New York -- we'll always come back better and stronger than before.’

Said New York State Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus: “After the devastation and hardship that Superstorm Sandy created for our community in 2012, I am overjoyed to celebrate the grand reopening of the New York Aquarium! Located in my home neighborhood of Coney Island, this premier cultural institution will delight both residents and visitors alike with its dynamic exhibits and family-friendly activities. While our recovery from Superstorm Sandy still continues, the reopening of New York City's only aquarium represents an important step forward. I'll continue working with my colleagues in government and community stakeholders to provide support needed by those affected by Sandy.”

Said New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo: “The New York Aquarium bore the full force of Superstorm Sandy’s devastation, but we never lost faith that together, we could bring this amazing institution back. With today’s incredible milestone, we’ve proved yet again that New Yorkers working together can achieve great things. We’re so proud to invest in this cultural organization that does so much to teach our young people about our ecosystem and to open their eyes to the wonders and beauty of our planet. I also want to thank our partners in the federal government for stepping up to help restore our city’s only aquarium.” 

Said New York City Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue: “The New York Aquarium is a Coney Island institution, and we're thrilled that this beloved place of learning, conservation, and fun has fully reopened for the first time since hurricane Sandy. Congratulations to our partners at the Wildlife Conservation Society for this momentous reopening, and I can't wait to see the wonderful new ‘Sea Change’ exhibit for myself.”

A BRIEF HISTORY: After being fully closed for seven months following Sandy, the aquarium partially reopened in 2013 while restoration of buildings and exhibits, critical life support systems, and resiliency planning/storm mitigation projects were underway. For the next 10 years, the aquarium rebuilt exhibits and restored public buildings while also planning and protecting the campus and the animals from future storms.

In 2018, Ocean Wonders: Sharks! officially opened to the public. This marquee building was a planned expansion not part of the storm damage, but the groundbreaking for the building was scheduled for the same week that Sandy hit. The start of construction was delayed due to the storm.

In 2020, Spineless opened as the first exhibit to open in a building restored from damage and closure caused by Superstorm Sandy

In 2022, PlayQuarium opened in the same building as Spineless. The public opening was delayed by COVID-19 pandemic. The same year, the aquarium’s Seaside Café re-opened. The restaurant incurred devastating damage that kept the building closed for nearly a decade.

As of Friday, July 1, 2022 exhibits and features open to public at New York’s only aquarium include: Sea Change; Spineless; PlayQuarium; Ocean Wonders: Sharks!; Glover’s Reef; Conservation Hall; Sea Cliffs, Aquatheater, Seaside Café, and more.