Whalemina is back!
The beloved Rockaway icon swept away during superstorm Sandy has been rebuilt and made her debut this weekend at the Mermaid Parade.
“It’s a whole new adventure for Whalemina,” said artist Geoff Rawling.
She’s now mobile and mounted on a boat trailer. A series of steps run along Whalemina’s spine, making it easier for musicians, children and other admirers to sit atop her aquamarine head.
For years, the brightly-colored fiberglass whale greeted visitors to Rockaway at Beach 94th Street. And she had her very own New York City story.
Originally known as Jonah’s Whale, it was one of the highlights of the Central Park Children’s Zoo from the 1960s through the 1980s. Visitors could step inside the whale’s open mouth and gaze into a fish tank.
But the zoo was completely renovated in the 1990s and the whale, also nicknamed Whale-y, became homeless.
The Rockaway Beach Civic Association and local residents rallied to bring the whale to the peninsula and found a permanent perch by the boardwalk. She was dubbed Whalemina and found a new life as a sparkling seaside attraction.
Rawling spent years transforming Whalemina with colorful tiles and glass. After superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012, all that was left of Whalemina was her tail.
“Everyone was so sad,” he said. “She was a symbol of the community. This is probably the most significant art project I have done in my life.”
And it took the whole community to bring her back.
The nonprofit Projects of Peace helped raise funds for construction. Rawling collaborated with writer Laura Cryan for a children’s book about Whalemina. Other donations paid for construction which Rawling says cost around $14,000.
A car collision firm from the Bronx which specializes in fiberglass crafted Whalemina out of plywood, aluminum, sprayfoam and fiberglass.
Rawling designed and painted Whalemina, which has many of the colors and features of the original — a sunburst eye, swirling waves and sea creatures.
Projects of Peace will take donations for a maintenance fund, which could also be raised through block party rentals.
He would also love to see her back near her original spot near the boardwalk, even if it’s only for the summer.
“She’s in Rockaway now and she’s going to get a lot of attention,” Rawling said. “Everyone is so excited.”