Photos: New York Aquarium draws families on reopening day

new york aquarium
Families explored the New York Aquarium’s new Spineless exhibit during its reopening for members on Aug. 24.
Photo by Erica Price

Coney Island’s New York Aquarium opened to members on Sunday after a months-long closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing joy to families and fish aficionados. 

“I’m just so happy that it opened,” said Queens resident Rachel Klepadlo, who attended the reopening with her daughter, Max, her husband, and their friends. “It was something we’ve been waiting for for a while.”

new york aquarium
Kids pose in the the New York Aquarium’s exhibit, “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” on Aug. 24.Photo by Erica Price

Attendees explored some of the aquarium’s popular mainstays, such as the shark tank and the outdoor penguin habitat — and even got to meet the new seals that were born during quarantine!

Klepadlo said that three-year-old Max and her friend particularly loved a new exhibit called “Spineless” featuring jellyfish, octopus, and other sea creatures without backbones.

The New York Aquarium’s new Spineless exhibit premiered at the aquarium’s reopening on Aug. 24.Photo by Erica Price

They just opened the jellyfish exhibit, and that was new to them, so they thought that was the best day ever,” she said. 

The aquarium’s reopening follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Aug. 14 edict allowing museums and other cultural institutions to reopen on Aug. 24 at limited capacity with strict social distancing guidelines. The aquarium, which closed in March because of the pandemic, will open to the public on Aug. 27.

new york aquarium
The New York Aquarium resumed its outdoor programming, such as its sea lion shows, but moved all in-person classes online.Photo by Erica Price

To ensure the disease doesn’t spread, aquarium staff are limiting the number of visitors in a room at any given time, making sure that attendees wear face masks, and asking all visitors to buy timed tickets in advance. The free admission policy on Wednesday afternoons will continue from Sept. 2 onward, but those tickets will also need to be ordered online in advance.

Harbor seal pup Murphy, who was born at the aquarium on July 28.Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

Officials are also instituting strict cleaning protocols, particularly of high-touch areas, and ensuring that staff members wash their hands frequently, according to the aquarium’s website

Klepadlo, whose daughter went to the aquarium’s leaning center every week before the start of the pandemic, said she felt safe exploring the aquarium’s indoor spaces. 

“They had staff members in every indoor area counting people. We felt like we had the place to ourselves,” she said, adding that her family has already talked about returning. “We’re already planning to go back in two weeks.”

The new Spineless exhibit features strange sea creatures without a backbone, such as jellyfish and squids.Photo by Erica Price