Monday, March 17, 2008

Long Live The Ferry's Fish Tanks...and Fish

I love the new fish tanks at the ferry. I can see why people are missing their boats (see the article below). The fish are mesmerizing. The "Lookdown Fish" appear to be staring at you. They are my favorite fish in the tank. There has been some complaining about the money spent but if you watch the normally grumpy and hurried people stop, stare and smile you will realize that they are worth every penny. They are making people happy. I have posted a few of my cell phone pictures here.- CvB
From The Staten Island Advance
Sunday March 16, 2008, 8:49 PM
Tales from Staten Island's premiere fish tanks by Maura Yates

Two complaints have been filed so far against the two saltwater fish tanks installed last month in the St. George Ferry Terminal.

But though some have derided Borough President James Molinaro's $750,000 capital expenditure as a "boondoggle," the latest remarks weren't what you might think.

Instead, two ferry riders expressed their annoyance that they missed their ride because they were too busy admiring the fish and didn't hear the announcements the boat was boarding.

And, Molinaro said, fish aficionados will be getting even more distractions when four computers are installed at the tanks to aid in species identification. The units are expected to be up and running by the end of April.

But while countless kids, and some adults, have pressed their faces up to the glass looking for "Nemo," other more morose tank observers have launched a "death watch," to document the unfortunate ends for the aquarium inhabitants.

The first victim, a silver and alienlike Lookdown Fish, was spotted just moments after the ceremonial unveiling late last month. The fish's body, largely obscured by a piece of plastic coral, had already provided lunch for its tankmates.

As many as three others have since gone belly up, amounting to a one percent loss among the total population of 400 fish divided between the two tanks.

A number that low for tanks that large with water chemistry that delicate is "unheard of," said Brett Raymer of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, the Las Vegas-based company that custom-designed the terminal aquariums.

And there have been false alarms, Molinaro said.

"One fish lays on its side and looks like he's dead, but he's not really dead."

Twice when tank maintenance crews went over with a net, the fish got a second wind, he said.

And for those who worry that such an up-close view of death might traumatize children, don't forget, as any kid who has seen "The Lion King" can tell you, it's all about the circle of life.

"Even people die," Molinaro said. "What can you do?"

"You're going to have casualties," Raymer said. "The key is having as few as possible."

To keep the fish healthy, they are placed in quarantine tanks in the state-of-the-art pump room built below the terminal floor. Once the fish appear to have no signs of illness and are eating vigorously, they are gradually introduced into the tanks in the waiting room.

Fish can die from old age, of course, but stress and poor water condition are also factors that can cause an untimely demise. To prevent fish loss, ATM employees are on duty at the terminal every day to monitor the health of the fish, and ensure the different species are eating, but are not overfed.

And since each fish was caught in the seas of the Caribbean, instead of hatched in a tank "you can never really tell how old the fish is." But, Raymer said, he's seen young fish live as long as 10 years, while the average life expectancy of an aquarium fish is usually between two and five.

When a fish goes belly-up, the workers wait until nighttime, when the waiting room empties, to scoop the body out with a net, so as to avoid creating a spectacle and upsetting children. "You're not just going to bust out a ladder and get that fish out as the ferry's coming in," Raymer said.

Saltwater fish are particularly difficult to breed in captivity, requiring replacements to be caught in the wild. There is room to store back-up fish in the pump room to replace the stock as fish die off.

The Artists Are Coming: NBC News Interviews Staten Island Artists

Theo Dorian and I (Cynthia von Buhler) were interviewed by NBC's Gabe Pressman about being artists on Staten Island and how more artists are finding out that Staten Island is a unique place to live and work. Theo, a photographer, came awhile back, and I am a painter/sculptor who arrived more recently. In this short clip Theo and I talk about SHOW, an art space near the ferry terminal that we are opening soon. A couple of my paintings will be featured in the clip. Gallery 6 and Staten Island painter Jenny Tango were also featured and interviewed. This clip focused on the artists who were the first to come and have been here for a long time and how they paved the way for the new crop of younger artists and galleries.

The clip aired on the March 18th 11PM news, Channel 4 (Tri-state area: NY, CT, NJ). It will also appear on some digital affiliates.

Other recent press about artists coming to Staten Island can be found in the following posts on this site. You can find them using the "Search Prodigal Borough" box to the right:

Bohemia by the Bay: New York Times Feature
Hipsters on Staten Island: A New York Times video feature
Staten Island Seeks Artists: NY1 News
House call, Animal Kingdom: Time Out New York
A Quest for a Castle, New York Times slideshow feature
Looking for a House and a Turret, The New York Times