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After an outpouring of support from the public, including a petition with more than 180,000 signatures, the Queens Zoo has been saved from the budget ax and will continue to operate every day of the year.
The Queens Zoo in Flushing and Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn had originally been slated to lose $5.8 million in funding, which could have forced them to close. But in the June 25 budget prepared by the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city restored $4.8 million to the zoos, leaving the institutions with a combined $1 million shortfall..
Were just excited and happy that were going to be able to remain open and serve the people of New York City, said John Calvelli, a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the citys zoos. Weve been very lucky because the outpouring of support has been significant.
Calvelli said the WCS was looking into several ways to make up the $1 million shortage in funding, including raising admission prices and renting out the zoo for events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Were in negotiations with the Parks Department about a rate increase. Were still discussing that, Calvelli said. Our goal is to make sure that the two facilities remain affordable to the people of New York. Thats very important to us. We want to make sure that these remain family attractions that people can afford to go to.
The admission price to the Queens Zoo is $2.50 for adults, 50 cents for children from 3 to 12 years old and $1.25 for senior citizens, which is cheaper than the zoo in Central Park, which charges $6 for adults and $1 for children.
The renting out of the zoo for events would be a new method of raising revenue. Calvelli said he was not sure how much the zoo would charge for events.
The WCS is also looking into finding corporate sponsors for the zoos and is considering raising the prices for food at concession stands.
Calvelli said budgetary shortfalls would not affect the quality of care to the animals, which are the zoos first priority.
Our priorities always have to be to the collection, many of which are endangered in the wild, Calvelli said.
Calvelli said the WCS also was looking forward to working with Borough President Helen Marshall to try to establish a private organization such as the Central Park Conservancy that would raise and manage funds for the Queens Zoo.
The Queens Zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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