Prospect Park Zoo will reopen Memorial Day weekend, months after flood damage

The Prospect Park Zoo will reopen its doors to the public starting Memorial Day weekend, eight months after heavy flooding from Tropical Storm Ophelia wrecked critical infrastructure.

The reopening date is Saturday, May 25 — 239 days since the storm filled the zoo’s basements with as much as 25 feet of water, damaging electrical, HVAC and boiler systems. The non-profit operator of the zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society, said it spent about $6.5 million to reopen the 12-acre space.

But repairs are not complete. The full restoration costs, including protections against future flooding, are projected to be $20 million.

In the aftermath of the flood, viewing galleries for zoo exhibits were transformed into staging grounds for repair crews.

Scott Heins for Gothamist

“While this reopening of Prospect Park Zoo is a major milestone, we have a long way to go before the zoo is fully restored,” Wildlife Conservation Society Vice President Craig Piper said in a statement. “Throughout our temporary closure, many New Yorkers shared how important this beloved zoo is to the Brooklyn community and to all throughout the city. We look forward to welcoming guests again to Prospect Park Zoo.”

None of the zoo’s more than 400 animals, including red pandas, sea lions and tamarin monkeys, were harmed during the storm. In January, President Joe Biden signed a disaster declaration, unlocking federal funding to help with storm repairs around New York, including at the zoo.

The Sept. 29 downpour dumped as much as 8.7 inches of rain over a 24-hour period, shutting down subway lines and flooding major thoroughfares and homes. A city comptroller report estimated the storm caused $100 million in total economic losses to the metro region.

Tropical storm Ophelia completely inundated a zoo basement that went down two flights of stairs.

Courtesy of Prospect Park Zoo

At the zoo, much of the repairs have centered on restoring the electrical grid. Workers relocated the primary electrical room from a basement to the ground level.

Visitors to the zoo will notice some new animals: two southern pudu — one of the world’s smallest deer species, which are native to Chile — and a female Hamadryas baboon were born during the zoo’s closure.

The conservation society said no zoo staff were laid off during the extended closure.

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