Pet an East River Sea Squirt at New Brooklyn Bridge Park Aquarium

By Janet Upadhye on February 27, 2014 7:16am 

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 The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is planning to build a classroom fitted with an aquarium and a "touch pool" filled with East River plants and critters.
Proposed Indoor Classroom at Brooklyn Bridge Park
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DUMBO — Instead of sleeping with the fishes in the East River, now you can pet them.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is planning to build a classroom fitted with an aquarium and
a "touch pool" filled with East River plants and critters including sea squirts, puffer fish and lined seahorses.

The classroom, in the former city Department of Environmental Protection space known as the "Plymouth Street Building," will also be open to the public during set hours, according to the conservancy.

"All of the fish and invertebrates that we catch in the East River during our education programs will be featured in the aquarium," said Conservancy spokeswoman Rachel Fletcher.

But the critters, which also include moon jellies, shore shrimp, oyster toad fish and glass eels, are all eventually returned to the water.

"All of our species are catch and release," Fletcher said.

Biologists and trained staff will supervise the touch pool so that animals are handled properly and not injured, according to the Conservancy.

The classroom will be a spot for Brooklyn Bridge Park's teachers, who currently hold class outside, to host K-12 students who visit the park to learn about ecology, geology, meteorology and history.

DUMBO-based firm MESH Architectures to transform the building into a complex that includes the classroom plus bathrooms, a community meeting space and an environmental education center.

The total cost of the plan is close to $450,000 but the conservancy is asking the public to foot $80,000 of the bill through online fundraising at Crowdrise.

Other funding will come from foundations and corporations.

The classroom will have a planned fall 2014 opening date.

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