“I must also say that we must not be short-sighted in cutting resources to those institutions and organizations that contribute to our economic vitality and may well be part of the solution in restoring prosperity.” Frank J. Franz, Belmont Business Improvement District

NEW YORK (May 27, 2009)—The following testimony was given by Frank J. Franz, Chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District, to the New York City Council in support of the full restoration of funds for New York City’s 34 cultural institutions (Cultural Institutions Group, CIG).

In this statement, Franz outlines the importance of institutions such as the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden as economic drivers for local community shops, restaurants, and other businesses. The following are excerpts from his statement:

“I can….tell you of the pleasure millions of people enjoy every year when visiting the Bronx Zoo and The New York Botanical Garden or of the attention and stature organizations of this caliber bring to the Bronx.”

“Having been born and raised in the Belmont section of the Bronx, also known as Little Italy in the Bronx, the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Garden have been my lifelong neighbors and places of enjoyment for me and my entire family.”

“Having been president of the local merchant association for the past twelve years and now as chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District, I have realized the enormous economic impact these institutions have on our community.”

“With millions of visitors each year [to the zoo and garden], getting just one percent of their visitors to eat at our area restaurants and visit our shops means tens of thousands of additional customers each year.”

“These same visitors also flood our businesses and are a significant part of the economic well-being and success of the Belmont business community.”

“I must also say that we must not be short-sighted in cutting resources to those institutions and organizations that contribute to our economic vitality and may well be part of the solution in restoring prosperity.”

“The Bronx Zoo and The New York Botanical Garden have also been great partners in working together for our mutual benefit by working on cross promotional and marketing events, distributing information about our community and partnering with us to promote services and activities that affect not only us but the entire community, as well as the Bronx at large.”

“I speak not only for myself, but for my entire community, when I say I am willing to sacrifice a little more so that the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden remain vital economic engines for Belmont, the Bronx and the entire city.”

City Funding Facts and Economic Impact Facts

  • Our city’s 34 cultural institutions are being cut by 28 million over a two-year period.
  • The Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium face a reduction of $2.3 million—that’s 24 percent less than Fiscal Year 2009 support. This is on top of the $1.3 million cut imposed in the current fiscal year (2009). We can no longer continue to absorb these cuts—that is why we must realign our people and programs as we reduce our budget.
  • By restoring our funding—the city will be investing in the education of our children, the employment of our residents, the economic survival of our merchants and businesses, and the quality of life for all New Yorkers and visitors to our great city.

We are 34 of the greatest institutions in the world, including: The Wildlife Conservation Society; American Museum of Natural History; Wave Hill; The Bronx County Historical Society; The Bronx Museum of the Arts; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The New York Botanical Garden; and many more.

A break down of a $414.6 million economic impact on NYC by WCS looks like this:

  • $285,800,000, due to operational expenditures
  • $76,200,000, due to capital expenditures
  • $52,560,000, due to expenditures by visitors.

All the institutions managed by WCS in New York City are the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo, as well as the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn.

Specific positive economic impacts of the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium include:

  • More than 4 million visitors come to our facilities each year. The Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium are both located in underserved areas.
  • WCS offers free Wednesday admission to all at the Bronx Zoo and free Friday afternoons at the New York Aquarium.
  • We are one of the largest youth employers in the Bronx. (400 at Bronx Zoo; 100 at New York Aquarium).
  • In FY 08, we hired 800 seasonal employees at the Bronx Zoo, including students, retirees, and people on public assistance.
  • The New York Aquarium welcomes more visitors each year than any other cultural institution in Brooklyn.
  • WCS is the only cultural institution located in four of New York’s five boroughs.

Additional added value from WCS to the City, beyond the parks:

  • WCS provides advice and services for public health and animal control in the City and throughout the region.
  • WCS is the principal repository in the region for snake anti-venin.
  • And in this world city, where global health issues can become local ones in no time, WCS chairs the New York City interagency task force on wildlife diseases and human public health.

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. Visit: www.wcs.org

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping to save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation

Stephen Sautner (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)