News and Press Releases

For Immediate Release: November 19, 2018


DCLA: Ryan Max, 212-513-9323,

DDC: Ian Michaels, 718-391-1589,

SI Zoo: Brian Morris, 718-442-3100 x26,



City contributed over $9 million to fund modernized exhibition and education spaces and systems to improve energy efficiency


Project completed six months ahead of schedule

Staten Island, NY – NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl and NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Lorraine Grillo joined Kenneth Mitchell of the Staten Island Zoological Society and local elected officials today to formally reopen the Staten Island Zoo Aquarium following a complete overhaul of the aquarium. The $9 million project, which reimagines the previous 30-year-old design, was completed six months ahead of schedule. DDC managed the construction for DCLA, which administered funding for the project.

The full reconstruction of the aquarium and the Zoo’s main building foyer replaced 15 small tanks with four large tanks, each representing various marine habitats. Three new high-efficiency boilers were added in the building’s cellar and new energy-efficient HVAC units were installed on the roof. New lighting and new flooring were installed for the comfort and safety of visitors, and new life support systems for marine life were added beneath the aquarium’s main floor, with pumps, plumbing and filters capable of managing saltwater and freshwater environments. Also Included is a modern audio-visual system to support interactive and interpretive features of the aquarium.

“We are thrilled to join the Staten Island Zoo for the completion of their major aquarium renovation, which has created a wonderful new home for many aquatic members of the Zoo’s living collection,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “DCLA is proud to have supported the improvements, which have enhanced energy efficiency and sustainability while creating dynamic new environments sure to educate and captivate New Yorkers of all ages for years to come.”

“DDC has been building for the Staten Island Zoo since the 1990s, so we understand the Zoo very well and the important role it plays in the community,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “It’s gratifying to be able to complete this project well ahead of schedule and bring visitors back into a completely new aquarium half a year earlier than expected.”

“The Staten Island Zoo has always been one of our borough’s cultural jewels, but this new aquarium, along with the innovative renovations being made to the Clove Road entrance and other capital improvements, is going to make the visitor experience even better,” said City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to provide unprecedented funding and resources to help make this transformation happen, and I strongly encourage everyone to come see for themselves all the exciting new things happening at the best little zoo in America.”

“I’m pleased to see the opening of the new aquarium, which will entertain and educate Staten Islanders and visitors,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “The Zoo is one of Staten Island’s finest attractions, and these upgrades will only enhance visitors’ experiences. I encourage animal enthusiasts of all ages to check out the new exhibit.”

“For generations, the Staten Island Zoo has provided residents and visitors of all ages an oasis to experience the diversity of the natural world in a park-like setting that mirrors native environments,” said Council Member Debi Rose. ”With the opening of this new aquarium, children and adults alike will have the opportunity to see beneath the waves in an immersive experience that explores sea life in four different fresh and saltwater environments, each representing a distinct region of the globe. I’m proud to have supported this project—along with a project to modernize the zoo’s infrastructure—and I thank all those who have joined me in bringing the wonders of nature closer to Staten Islanders.”

“The project represents a significant investment in the Staten Island community – establishing an asset that celebrates the natural world,” said Kenneth C. Mitchell, Executive Director of the Staten Island Zoo. “The aquarium was designed to better accommodate the Zoo’s commitment to education, to be a place where we can develop interpretive programs that help to educate and inform our visitors. In addition, we envision a potential for internships in marine sciences.”

The Zoo has created in the four new main tanks three saltwater and one freshwater exhibit intended to enforce the aquarium’s overarching concept that all life on Earth depends on water. The Atlantic Coast exhibit represents the marine habitat along the east coast of the United States while a Pacific Kelp Forest exhibit highlights the cold, nutrient rich waters off the North American west coast. The Coral Reef exhibit demonstrates how reefs have the highest biodiversity of any other ecosystem on the planet and the Freshwater River exhibit shows some of the 100,000 species that live in the planet’s rivers, swamps, ponds, lakes and marshes.

The Office of the Mayor, the Staten Island Borough President, and the City Council all contributed funding to the aquarium renovation, for a total of $9.2M in capital investment from the City. The Zoo is a member of the Cultural Institutions Group, a collection of institutions located on City property that receive financial support from DCLA for administrative and energy costs and are eligible to apply for City support for capital projects.

About the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves nonprofit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit