The New York Aquarium first opened on December 10, 1896, at Castle Garden in Battery Park, making it the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States. Its first director was the respected fish expert, Dr. Tarleton Hoffman Bean (1895-1898). On October 31, 1902, the Aquarium was adopted into the care of what was then the New York Zoological Society. At the time, the Aquarium housed only 150 specimens of wildlife. Over time, its most famous director, the distinguished zoologist Charles Haskins Townsend, enlarged the collections considerably, and the Aquarium attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Early in October 1941, the Aquarium at Battery Park was closed due to the proposed construction of a bridge or tunnel from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. Many of the Aquarium’s sea creatures were temporarily housed at the Bronx Zoo until the new aquarium was built after World War II. On June 6, 1957, the Aquarium opened its doors at its new location in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
The New York Aquarium currently occupies 14 acres by the sea in Coney Island, and boasts over 350 species of aquatic wildlife. Its mission is to raise public awareness about issues facing the ocean and its inhabitants with special exhibits, public events and research. At the Aquarium’s Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences (OLMS), several studies are currently underway investigating such topics as dolphin cognition, satellite tagging of sharks, and coral reefs.
On August 19, 2005 authorities revealed they received a letter written half a century before by Stella Ferrucci-Good. In it, the woman identified a location near West Eighth Street in Coney Island, Brooklyn, at the current site of the New York Aquarium, where she claimed judge Joseph F. Crater was buried under the boardwalk. Police confirmed that skeletal remains had been discovered at that site in the 1950s while building the New York Aquarium. Due to the reburying of those skeletal remains in a Potter's field it is still unknown whether they were in fact the skeletal remains of Judge Crater.