NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is stepping up efforts to bring a pair of giant pandas to New York City.
Currently only zoos in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., San Diego and Memphis have pandas in the U.S.
For years, Maloney has been lobbying to bring the pandas from a preserve in China to the Big Apple, saying the animals will be a boost to tourism and strengthen the city’s ties with the Asian nation.
“They’re really good looking,” one man said.
“I like pandas personally,” said another.
While the public’s love for the adorable animals is near universal, none of the people CBS2’s Alice Gainer spoke with has ever seen one in person.
Maloney is vowing to bring pandas to New York by 2020 without using public money.
“They’re a symbol of good luck, and New York needs a little good luck,” she said.
Cost estimates have been in the tens of millions for transport and a facility, which she’d like to be in Central Park. It also costs $1 million per year to rent the pandas from China, plus their care and housing.
“We are raising the money for an endowment and for the construction of a panda pavilion,” Maloney said.
Two billionaires, former AIG boss Hank Greenberg and grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis, are joining the effort as part of the not-for-profit group “The Pandas Are Coming To NYC.” They strongly believe bringing pandas here would increase tourism, among other things.
“Having our children of New York have access to see the pandas is an important part of it,” Greenberg said, “maybe the most important part of it.
“It’s a win, win, win for New York City,” Catsimatidis said. “The hotel industry, the tourism industry, the restaurant industry.”
Catsimatidis said he’s mentioned it to one of President Donald Trump’s sons.
“You know follow it in your father’s footsteps and build it for half price,” Catsimatidis said, but would not disclose whether there was any interest.
It’s unclear whether or not the pandas would be housed at the Central Park Zoo or the Bronx Zoo, as the plan is still a few years off from becoming a reality.
“The first phase is to create a committee that will decide on a site,” Maloney said. “We are raising the money for an endowment and construction of a panda pavilion.”
Fundraising starts with a Panda Ball at the Waldorf Astoria on Wednesday. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have told CBS2 that they support the idea as long as the funds remain privately raised.
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