FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A new aquatic-themed carousel that will feature dozens of giant fish in the place of carousel horses is rapidly taking shape in Battery Park.
The $16 million SeaGlass, a whimsical but educational ride designed to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the ocean, won't open until the spring of 2013, but workers have already poured the concrete foundation, and the carousel's massive turntable is set to arrive this week, officials said.
By the late fall, a domed structure rising above the turntable will house 30 fish sculptures, created by George Tsypin, who designed "The Little Mermaid" for Broadway. The luminescent fish will stand more than 9 feet tall and will glow with internal LED and fiber-optic lights. In the center of each fish, Tsypin is carving out a space so visitors can sit inside.
"He doesn't want you to ride the fish," Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy, said of Tsypin's vision. "He wants you to become the fish."
During the ride, which will last about 3 minutes, SeaGlass will reverberate with music scored to resemble deep underwater sounds, and projections of fish swimming through New York Harbor will flit across the walls.
The carousel has three interior turntables in addition to the one large one, which will give riders a sense of gliding freely through water rather than just rotating in a circle, Price said.
SeaGlass is designed to recall the original New York Aquarium, which opened in Battery Park's Castle Clinton in 1896 and drew millions of visitors before closing in 1941.
The Battery Conservancy is working with the aquarium, now based in Coney Island, to develop educational materials about the fish and the harbor, to enhance the experience for school groups, Price said.
But SeaGlass will also be open into the evening, and Price hopes adults will give it a spin as well.
"It's not going to be just for children — it's for everyone," she said.
SeaGlass is just one piece of a major redevelopment of Battery Park that is entering its final stages this year. By the end of 2012, 97 percent of the 25-acre park will either be under construction or will have been completed, Price told the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association last week.
One of the biggest projects is the Battery Green, a three-acre open space for which construction will begin this summer, once the World Trade Center sphere sculpture is moved. The oval-shaped lawn will host gatherings for up to 8,000 people, and the conservancy plans to launch an international competition this summer to design chairs for the space.
Other plans include a new bikeway around the park's perimeter and a Frank Gehry-designed playground.
"It's a big year," Price said. "You will see the park evolve."