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November 4, 2016

NYC Department of Design and Construction Breaks Ground on Renovation of Staten Island Zoo Aquarium

Staten Island Zoo Rendering
Rendering of the new 3,600-square-foot aquarium planned for the Staten Island Zoo

Shavone Williams
Dan Leibel


New York, NY –  New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora joined with local elected officials and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Staten Island Zoological Society today to break ground on a 3,600-square-foot renovation of the aquarium at the Staten Island Zoo. The construction is being managed by DDC for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA). 

“We live every day in New York City surrounded by water, particularly in Staten Island. This proximity to the ocean makes a top-flight aquarium even more important for people to learn about our local wildlife and how we fit into this complex ecosystem,” said Commissioner Peña-Mora. “DDC is proud to partner with Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President Oddo, DCLA, the Staten Island Zoo and City Councilmembers Rose and Matteo to bring a revamped aquarium to Staten Island residents.”

“Zoos bring the natural world to our front door with living collections that inspire and educate visitors of all ages,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “On behalf of the de Blasio Administration, we’re proud to support this major aquarium renovation for the extraordinary Staten Island Zoo. With enhanced exhibition space and increased energy efficiency, we can ensure that the next generations of Staten Island residents and visitors have opportunities to appreciate the beauty of aquatic life from across the globe.”

Originally built in 1936, the aquarium at the Staten Island Zoo is an educational tool for borough residents and children to learn about aquatic wildlife, including the diverse species nearby in New York Harbor, the Atlantic Ocean, the Arthur Kill and the rest of New York City’s rivers, bays and beaches.

DDC Commissioner breaking ground
DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora (center) broke ground with City officials on a renovation of the aquarium at the Staten Island Zoo

The renovation will replace 15 smaller tanks with four large floor-to-ceiling containments that surround visitors, spanning 75-square-feet in area and holding 3,300 gallons of water each. The new tanks will feature species from distinct world habitats including Tropical Coral Reef; Pacific Kelp Forest; Southeast Asian Freshwater Habitat, and Atlantic/Caribbean Sea Life. The exhibit space will include new life support equipment for the marine life, with high-grade filters and advanced temperature and water quality controls.

New lighting for the exhibits will be installed along with an interactive audio/visual system for public engagement. Additionally, new flooring that is durable, low maintenance and has a non-slip surface will replace the current floors. A full overhaul of the building’s plumbing will ensure that saltwater and fresh water tanks can be independently managed. 

The renovation includes mechanical upgrades to the building, including boiler, cooling and ventilation systems, and lighting, which will reduce energy and maintenance costs for the Zoo. The new boilers will also reduce noise and reverberations, helping to reduce disturbances to wildlife. Visitor access to the rest of the building containing the aquarium will be maintained throughout the project.

The renovation to the aquarium is expected to be completed in winter 2018 with an anticipated cost of $8.4 million in capital funds allocated by the Mayor’s Office through the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Staten Island Borough President’s Office, and City Councilmembers Debi Rose and Steven Matteo.

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 lenses 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, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 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