Borough President Markowitz says it’s time for the beleaguered New York Aquarium to swim with the big fish — and that means allowing Brooklynites to control its board.
Currently, the Aquarium is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which spends far more of its $166-million annual budget on the city’s four zoos — the lion’s share, of course, going to the big park in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, the Aquarium, a Coney Island institution since 1957, is kept in a budgetary backwater, Markowitz said during his State of the Borough address on Feb. 7.
The numbers back up the Beep.
The Aquarium, which had 766,000 visitors last year, has an annual budget of $14.3 million, said Fran Hackett, a spokeswoman, while its main competitor on the eastern seaboard, Mystic Aquarium, had a budget of $21 million in 2006.
And Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago, had an annual budget of $48 million.
Markowitz believes that the Aquarium would be in the swim of things if it were controlled by a Brooklyn-based board, rather than by an organization based in the Bronx.
“If Atlanta, a city of 500,000, can host beluga whales, certainly the New York Aquarium deserves to swim with the ‘big fish,’” said Markowitz.
The biggest animals at the New York Aquarium are the walruses, including the city’s singular tourist attraction, Ayveq, whose self-gratification is legendary.
A spokesman for the city Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing the mayor’s ambitious plan for the transformation of Coney Island into a world-class destination, said only that the agency would look at Markowitz’s proposal “along with other ideas.”
The Daily News, citing an unnamed city official, said Markowitz’s Aquarium dream plan was dead in the water, but the borough president was his typical undaunted self.
“I made it clear that I would ask the mayor to work with my office to study the possibility of creating an independent, Brooklyn-based board of directors to assume operations of the New York Aquarium,” he said in a statement.
Left unclear, however, is how Markowitz’s independently run aquarium would sustain itself once it seceded from the land-based animal kingdom.