• Petitions delivered to City Hall today in protest of proposed 53 percent budget cuts as lawmakers enter the final budget negotiations
  • New Yorkers rally behind WCS’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium and cultural organizations in all five boroughs
  • Cultural organizations are economic engines for NYC and cuts could mean elimination of jobs and services
  • Visit wcs.org/cityhall to sign the petition

New York – June 23, 2011 – More than 55,000 people have signed petitions that were delivered to City Hall today in a colossal show of support for restoration of the proposed 53 percent cuts to operating support for New York City’s cultural organizations in all five boroughs. The petitions were delivered as city lawmakers enter the final budget negotiations.

“We want to thank all New Yorkers who helped send a message to City Hall supporting culture in New York City,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. “The Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium – along with the rest of the city’s cultural organizations in all five boroughs – are economic drivers that drive tourism, bring business to local merchants, create jobs, and are educational resources for families. It is counterproductive to cut city support of culture – it is what makes this city great. Through this petition, the collective voice of the people of New York will be heard by our elected officials.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society alone, which runs the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo,  pumps more than $316 million into New York City’s economy. More than four million guests visit WCS facilities each year, buying from local merchants in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and across New York.

Recently, Jerome Raguso, owner of Gino’s Pastry Shop on Arthur Avenue, sent unfilled cannoli shells to several members of City Council with a note that explained how small businesses depend on cultural organizations to drive tourism to the surrounding neighborhoods and customers to local businesses. The empty pastry shells represented 47 percent of a cannoli – a metaphor for how the city and cultural organizations depend on each other and neither can stand alone.

If the budget for next year is approved as proposed, operating support for New York City’s cultural organizations will be cut by more than 50 percent which means the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium face a $4.7 million cut. For more than 100 years, the city has been a part of a public private partnership with these world-class organizations.

Last week the Wildlife Conservation Society released a homemade video called Group Therapy created to inspire New Yorkers to join the appeal. The video featured some of the animals from WCS’s Bronx Zoo as an example to directly address the economic repercussions if the cuts become reality. The video drives a very serious message in a clever way. View the video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTk-zucbByk.

As New York City lawmakers negotiate the budget, WCS is continuing to encourage people to visit wcs.org/cityhall to sign the petition urging restoration of city operating support for the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, and all of New York City’s cultural organizations.

Calvelli said, “New York’s cultural organizations certainly have the support of New Yorkers – families, businesses, and communities alike. We hope that City Hall will hear the voices of the people through these petitions.”

Max Pulsinelli – 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.