The Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium is looking to the future after Sandy's storm surge caused millions of dollars of damage to the Coney Island attraction. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Osborn is one of the stars at the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium. The California Sea Lion is one of the residents that rode out the storm. Director Jon Forrest Dohlin was also there along with 18 staff members.
"As that water came in and started rushing down into the basements where I know all of the building infrastructure is, all of the life support systems for the aquarium and the tanks and the ecosystems that we have going here, honestly at that moment I thought we lost the aquarium," Dohlin recalled.
Indeed, there was damage to every building on the 14 acre site. Amazingly, though, all of the marine mammals made it and the staff was able to save 85 percent of the collection of fish and other aquatic life.
"Fortunately we were able to get power back up, we were able to get emergency generation moving throughout the systems that we needed," Dohlin said.
The aquarium was able to partially re-open on May 25, and since then some 350,000 people have visited. It usually draws 750,000 people each year. Dohlin says while there was and is still a lot of work to be done to fully restore the place, it was pivotal to re-open in some capacity.
"We are an economic anchor out here in Coney Island and in South Brooklyn. We put about $58 million every year into the economy here, and we could see the devastation throughout and we thought it's important to get back up and get driving," Dohlin said.
When Sandy hit the New York Aquarium it was just about to break ground on a major expansion project. That, of course, was delayed, but now that it's partially re-opened those plans will move forward and it will transform the entire Aquarium.
It's called "Ocean Wonders" and will feature sharks. It will be wrapped in shimmering tiles. Virtual tiles can be bought and personalized for $100 to help the aquarium's future.
"We'll be back up by 2016 with that expansion and the rebuild of the aquarium that's our goal to get open by 2016," Dohlin said.
For information on buying a tile or a visit to the aquarium, check out nyaquarium.com.