By Cynthia Koons
City funding for the Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows Corona Park was jeopardized again when Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed his preliminary budget last week, but a spokeswoman said zoo officials are not worried about shutting down just yet.
“This is really preliminary and we’re really hopeful we’re not going to have to go through what we went through last year,” Alison Power, a spokeswoman for the Queens Zoo, said Tuesday.
The mayor’s proposed cuts had Queens politicians and local children protesting the potential closing of the zoo last spring.
Power said the zoo’s operating budget is partially funded by ticket and concession sales and then subsidized by city money. The Queens, Brooklyn and Central Park zoos are all operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. This year the Queens Zoo and Brooklyn Zoo are both on the city budget’s chopping block.
“The Queens Zoo is the product of millions of dollars in capital investments that have built it to what it is today,” City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said. “To even think of closing it down doesn’t make any sense because once you do that, you basically throw the investments that we’ve made down the drain.”
Liu said he and other Queens delegates will lobby the mayor to restore funding to the Queens and Brooklyn zoos, both of which could be affected by this year’s budget cuts.
This is the second consecutive year the zoo has faced losing its city funding. Last spring Queens politicians managed to restore the mayor’s budget cuts, which could have left 400 animals homeless.
“A zoo is not something that’s closed temporarily. You have to move animals or put them down, which is not something anyone wants to do,” Liu said. “When the people in the backroom at City Hall are just trying to come up with a number, they sometimes forget about the real-life impact that these institutions make.”
Liu said the zoo was built with $3 million to $4 million worth of the city’s capital investments. It first opened in 1968 and was renovated and reopened in 1992. The zoo houses more than 400 animals from 80 different species including endangered animals such as thick-bill parrots and spectacle bears. The animals are visited by 220,000 people each year.
“I brought my 3-year-old son, Joey, to the Queens Zoo many times and I personally will be extremely upset (if it closes),” Liu said. “I’ll only be half as upset as my son if anything happens to the Queens Zoo.”
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.