Aquariums, Museums, More Industries To Open Under Phase 4 On Long island

Sophia Hall
July 08, 2020 - 4:15 pm

    Sign up for WCBS 880's daily newsletter for the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

    RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Long Island enters Phase 4 of its reopening process on Wednesday. 

    For those who live in Nassau and Suffolk counties , Phase 4 means colleges can reopen, low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment can return, professional sports without fans can resume and people can visit museums and zoos once again. TV shows and movies can also film once again.

    Among those reopening are the Train Museum in Riverhead, where more than two dozen employees spent the day cleaning and preparing the attractions, including a train that visitors can ride on.

    “We will have the ‘64, ‘65 World’s Fair train running,” says museum president Donald Fisher. 

    Though, he notes there will be social distancing implemented. 

    “Family members can all sit together. If you’re non-family members, you’re going to be social distancing on the train,” he explains. 

    The museum in Riverhead will reopen on July 18.

    Meanwhile, after months of struggling, the Long Island Aquarium and Rescue Center is also preparing to welcome visitors back inside. 

    The aquarium had been struggling financially since the pandemic began as 95% of revenue came from admissions sales and it can cost around $1 million to keep the aquarium running each month. 

    “Where over $600,000 a month between the animal care staff and then the animal care needs,” explains executive director Bryan DeLuca.

    They also relied on weddings at the aquarium to bring in revenue. During the pandemic, they asked the community for donations and hope to recoup some losses now that they can reopen.

    Though, DeLuca says will limitations, they will still be struggling.

    “We should be doing 2,000 people a day and we're not. We're in survival mode,” he said.

    The aquarium is operating at 25% capacity and all tickets must be purchased in advance online. 

    It will also operate in a one-way flow to allow visitors to see all the animals including sharks, seals, sea lions and stingrays. 

    Zoos and other animal farms will also be reopening. 

    The Long Island Game Farm opened on Wednesday in Manorville. Masks are mandatory and social distancing is strictly encouraged. 

    Operations Manager Greg Strossel says he's eager to see people back and hopes the farm can recover from the financial hardship brought on by the pandemic. 

    “There’s vet bills, there’s feed bills and if we don't have the admissions coming through, it's very hard to maintain. And then, a lot of our animals are shipped out for the winters, and because of the quarantine, a lot of them aren’t here yet. The giraffe isn't here yet," he said.

    Normally the farm opens in April and the busiest day of the year is usually Memorial Day, which they were forced to miss this year. Strossel is disappointed they had to wait so long to open and notes that since the farm is outside, they could have welcomed visitors weeks ago. 

    On Thursday, the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Cradle of Aviation Museum will also reopen to the public following local, state, and federal guidelines. 

    "We are excited to welcome everyone back to the Museum and cannot wait to see our visitors smiling and learning about fire safety. We have made changes to the Museum to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff and look forward to reopening," said Alana Petrocelli, Executive Director of the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center.

    Gyms and movie theaters will remain closed, pending a decision by the governor, who on Wednesday announced malls could resume operations on Friday, but only if they have “enhanced” HVAC filtration systems.

    Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said malls are critical to Long Island's economy.

    "These malls are a very Long Island thing, they employ thousands of people, they pay a lot of money in property taxes, they're a really important part of our economy, and I'm concerned that we won't be able to rebound unless they're able to open," Curran said.

    There are also no plans for schools in the fall, which Curran finds concerning.

    "As the summer goes on, the runway to put things into place gets shorter. They've gotta think about bussing, kindergarten, cafeteries, who can distant learn. There's a lot of moving pieces," Curran said.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that guidance on schools in New York will be finalized next Monday with a final decision on reopening coming the first week of August.

    Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and TwitterDownload the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.