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Zoo Trip by Lower East Side Girls Club Helping DDC Teach How to Build for Animals

DDC: Shoshana Khan, 718-391-1251,

(Bronx, NY - October 9, 2019)The NYC Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) STEAM education initiative partnered with the Lower East Side Girls Club and the Wildlife Conservation Society to take 23 girls to the Bronx Zoo this month as part of its effort to develop a DDC STEAM “Building for Animals” curriculum, highlighting the techniques and designs that are best suited for public projects that affect animals.


DDC’s Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships & STEAM Initiatives Lee Llambelis (far left) and staff with the girls from the Lower East Side Girls Club in the Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo

“DDC builds for animals all over the City, including zoo exhibits, aquariums and animal shelters,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “It’s important that we strive to accommodate their special needs, with environments that are nurturing and representative of natural habitats. The Bronx Zoo is an established learning environment that has very helpful examples of this type of construction.”

“The visit to the Bronx Zoo is part of our research for a new curriculum called Building for Animals,” said DDC Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships & STEAM Initiatives Lee Llambelis. “Our goal is to expose the girls to the world of the built environment and provide them with the tools and framework to understand how structures and habitats like rain forests, and jungles are built to meet the needs of specific species and to get them to think about what is necessary when building for animals. At the zoo they were able to see several structures constructed by DDC including the Lion House and the Congo Gorilla Forest. The girls were able to focus on the relationships between architecture, design and visual art in a largely outdoor setting.”

“STEAM education is a major focus of what we do at the Bronx Zoo and we are proud to partner with DDC and provide their students with access to our facilities and experts,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John F. Calvelli. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with future design and construction projects at the Bronx Zoo.”

“Over the course of my career at DDC, I have worked on zoos, farms, dog runs, and animal rescue shelters to provide structures that are safe and healthy for animals,” said DDC Built it Back Regional Manager Starlene Scott. “Building for animals requires research, design, and understanding the needs of each animal to properly develop habitats that replicate natural environments, climates, body temperatures and eating habits in the daily lives of the animals. Designers must also ensure that they select materials that won’t harm the animals and are highly durable given the extreme wear and tear endured by animal living spaces.”

Through the tour, the girls learned about the importance of building for animals, how species that are becoming extinct can be saved through recreated natural habitats and what it takes to make their living space comfortable and meet their needs. DDC Built it Back Regional Manager Starlene Scott also gave a presentation about the process of building for animals. The girls on the tour previously participated in the development of the DDC’s “Coastal Resiliency” curriculum, which educates students on emerging technologies that could effectively combat the effects of climate change on shoreline areas.

Jeisica Sookoo is a seventh grader at the East Side Community High School and is a member of the Lower East Side Girls Club

“I wasn’t aware of all the measurements we can take to fight climate change until I took the ‘Coastal Resiliency’ course,” said East Side Community High School Student Jeisica Sookoo. It opened my eyes to a broader way of thinking about the work that goes into the building process and now, I’m interested in learning about building for animals.”

“I volunteered at an animal shelter last year because I was concerned about the well-being of animals. Going forward, I want people to be more aware of the needs of animals and know that they are just as important as us humans.”

Shanice Negrong is a ninth grader at the Reece School and is a member of the Lower East Side Girls Club

“I’m an animal lover and it bothers me that many animals are becoming extinct because of climate change and poachers,”
Reece School Student Shanice Negrong. “We need to save the animals from becoming extinct because they are part of the circle of life.”

In the future, I want to see controlled natural habitats that aren’t confined within four walls, where animals can live and mate peacefully without poachers and can have their own type of protection, similar to the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.”

DDC has completed several projects over the last two decades at the Zoo, including replacement of the fence at the Wildlife Conservation Society, a new irrigation system throughout the Zoo, the renovation of the Lion House and the replacement of the roof at the Wildlife Health Center. DDC recently constructed a parking lot at the Bronx Zoo with 700 spots and an integrated storm water management system. DDC will also start another project next summer to upgrade the Zoo’s backup electrical equipment.

DDC celebrated the completion of the $9 million extensive renovation of the Staten Island Zoo Aquarium in November 2018, which was completed six months ahead of schedule. The full reconstruction of the aquarium and the Zoo’s main building foyer replaced 15 small tanks with four large tanks, each representing various marine habitats. Three new high-efficiency boilers were added in the building’s cellar and new energy-efficient HVAC units were installed on the roof. New lighting and new flooring were installed for the comfort and safety of visitors, and new life support systems for marine life were added beneath the aquarium’s main floor, with pumps, plumbing and filters capable of managing saltwater and freshwater environments.

DDC’s STEAM education initiative was established in 2014 to create a diverse and inclusive pipeline for New York City's youth to engage in the architecture, construction and engineering industries. Other successful DDC STEAM programs include the ACE Mentor Program, Town & Gown and the High School Summer Internship Program, a six-week paid internship program for students interested in pursuing careers in architecture, engineering, building trades, public administration, business administration or information technology. Overall, DDC STEAM has served 3,633 students since its inception.


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit