“Sandy Relief” for the New York Aquarium

Marc Scaglione of Sleepy Hollow helps the NY AquariumHurricane Sandy devastated tons of people in the tri-state area, but it also devastated the New York Aquarium. This fourteen- acre New York City landmark, located on Coney Island, in Brooklyn, was hit hard. The Aquarium houses around twelve thousand marine animals, including three rare pacific walruses named Nuka, Kulusiq, and baby Mitik. The Aquarium also houses a large variety of fish, sharks, seals, otters, and many more animals.

As a result of the storm, all the exhibits were damaged. The storm surge flooded the aquarium, and in some parts there was 15 feet of water. But not all hope was lost, because brave staff members were on the scene, twenty four hours a day during and after the storm. As a result of the staff’s actions most of the animals survived.   I had a chance to interview the director of the aquarium, Jon Dohlin, and this is what he had to say.

John Dohlin of New York AquariumMark Scaglione (MS): How much damage did the Aquarium receive from Hurricane Sandy?

John Dohlin (JD): The Aquarium lost a tremendous amount.  There was tons of water throughout the property.  We lost all of our equipment.  There was 3 to 4 feet of water throughout the whole campus and up to 15 feet in the basements.

MS: How high was the storm surge?

JD: Throughout the campus there was 3 to 4 feet of water, but at high tide it was 6 to 7 feet.

MS: Did any of the animals die or were any injured during the storm?

JD: We lost all of our koi (a fresh water fish) because when the storm surge came, salt water went into their exhibit.   We also lost some coral due to the cold caused by the power outage.  But 85 – 90% of the aquarium’s animals survived.

MS: How are all of the animals doing now?

JD: They are doing great!

MS: What were some of the sacrifices that the staff had to make to keep the animals safe?

seal tank at New York AquariumJD: We had 18 to 20 dedicated staff members sleeping at the aquarium for a week.  Whether they were plumbers, janitors or keepers, they were all there for the animals.  The staff worked in the cold weather and flooding waters throughout the storm, working 24 hours a day, making sure all of the animals were safe.  Some of the staff members lost their own homes and vehicles during the storm.

MS: How long will it be until the Aquarium reopens?

JD: I don’t know.  We are working hard to restore the aquarium and are hoping to reopen by the summer.

MS: What are the plans for the future?

JD: Our plans are to build a better aquarium that is able to deal with storm surge from the ocean and to build our new shark exhibit called Ocean Wonders.

MS: How can the public help the aquarium?

JD: The public can help out by keeping us in their thoughts.  They can also get involved, or donate to help rebuild.  They can go to our website, nyaquarium.com and donate.  The number one thing that people can do is to not forget about the ocean and the NY Aquarium.

MS: The Aquarium also had a shark “evacuation.”  What are the details?

JD: We moved our 7 sharks and 1 ray to our isolation hospital nearby.  We lowered the water level to 2 feet so the staff could walk in the tank and guide the sharks.  A big crane dropped a stretcher into the exhibit, and then the staff guided the sharks into the stretcher, so it was like they were in a taco.  The crane pulled them out of the tank and put them in another tank on the back of a truck.  The tank in the truck had oxygen pumped into it, so it was suitable to transport the sharks.  Then when they got to the hospital, another crane took the stretcher and put them into their quarantine space.  We did this because of Hurricane Sandy, but also because we are building a new shark exhibit called Ocean Wonders.  This will be a new exhibit to teach people about sharks and the ocean.  There will be more than 45 sharks in the exhibit.

As you can see from the interview, the animals and staff are struggling, but they are not giving up without a fight. The staff is hopeful things will get better, but it’s not a happy ending yet.  The Aquarium needs our help.   For my part, I wrote this article to raise awareness.   I also set up containers in local businesses, so the public can donate to help the Aquarium.  All the money collected will go directly to the Aquarium.

The containers are located at:

Sleepy Hollow’s:
Fleetwood Pizzeria

A Nu Toy Store
Main Street Sweets
Sebastian’s Barber Shop
Bark and meow
Coffee Labs
Pastry Chef
The Village Soccer Shop
Lubins -N- Links
Yogurt Le Crepe

When in these locations, please consider donating to the New York Aquarium. Another way to help out the aquarium is to go to nyaquarium.com and donate!   Don’t forget the animals and
the New York Aquarium; they suffered from “Sandy” too.

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