Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath: Museums & Gardens Suffer


Orphaned baby walrus survived Hurricane Sandy.

Aquarium officials found Mitik, the baby walrus, swimming excitedly in the oceanwater that swamped his cage during Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy’s rampage through New Jersey and New York left behind a trail of damage in some of the city’s most treasured cultural assets: Central Park, major botanic gardens, the New York Aquarium and other arts organizations assets in low-lying areas.

New York’s Central Park lost some 650 trees, including a prized pin oak from the North Woods cascades that was probably 160 years old or more. The Central Park Conservancy estimates it may have been one of the earliest trees planted after Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the city’s 843 acre jewel.

In the Bronx, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden was hard hit, with over 100 downed trees, including ancient oaks, and several hundred more that sustained serious wind damage. The storm toppled a 101-foot red oak — a centerpiece of the azalea grove — that was estimated to be around 200 years old. The NYBG’s old growth forest – a 50-acre area that has undergone extensive restoration in recent years –was seriously damaged. The forest is considered the last vestige of the forests that once covered the New York area for thousands of years.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden lost a line of 80-year-old little-leaf lindens (Tilia cordata) in the Osborne Garde. In other parts of the Garden, several large pin oaks, fruit trees and a historically significant Chinese parasol tree were destroyed.

Staff at the New York Aquarium (Brooklyn) performed heroically when ocean water swamped the entire 14-acre complex, to get to fish tanks, determine condition of the animals and provide oxygen. The Aquarium lost power essential for operating pumps and engines that control heat, oxygen and filtration. Zoo officials were concerned about a new arrival, an orphan baby walrus named Mitik. When an aquarium official got to his cage, he found Mitik swimming around excitedly in several feet of ocean water.The New York Times story tells their story and outlines repairs that are needed. The 12,000 animal collection will not have to be relocated to other aquariums.

In lower Manhattan, the National September 11 Memorial Museum under construction had the appearance of Niagara Falls as storm surge water poured over its surfaces and filled the below-grade level with at least seven feet of water.

The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance was hard hit when most of the Company’s sets and costumes were submerged under 6 feet of water in the basement of the Westbeth Artists complex. Art galleries in Chelsea have pumped out the stormwater and are now assessing damage from the storm, both to their facilities and works of art.

Stay tuned for additional information on how you can help museums, gardens, parks and cultural institutions damaged by Hurricane Sandy (and this week’s nor’easter).