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No bailout for the beasts

unknown If Governor Paterson has his way, the Bronx Zoo may have to send some pachyderms packing. His proposed 55 percent budget cut slashes $4 million of funding for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums across the state starting in March, then completely eliminates all state funding come 2010. The Bronx's main attraction is not the only family locale feeling the wrath of the recession budget cuts. According to John Calvelli, the zoo's executive vice president for public affairs, another 75 attractions around the state will be affected, including the New York Aquarium, Wave Hill, the botanical gardens in Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx, and the Staten Island Zoo. Spared in the bloodbath are the zoos in Queens, Brooklyn and Central Park, since they're managed through the city's Parks Department funds. "We're really devastated by this," Calvelli said over the phone from his zoo-based office. "It's not like we can close a wing of our museum. We can't fire our bears or furlough our sea lions. We don't have that option."
So what's the plan? For the next three months, until the budget is officially adopted, Calvelli and his staff will be spending a lot of time and shoe leather trying to get meetings with elected officials to convince them of the importance of these cultural institutions. I suggested he bring along one of those cute little baby lions so the Albany power players could pet the feline, but Calvelli said the meetings were strictly for two-legged types. To protest the Govenor's plans, contact Albany (send letters to David A. Paterson, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224, or call 518-474-8390) or sign the petition at wcs.org.
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