Bronx businesses say protecting zoo crucial to revenues

October 31, 2011 09:38AM

From left: Arthur Avenue market and the Bronx Zoo
Bronx Zoo visitors are critical to the success of the city’s biggest Little Italy neighborhood, according to Crain’s, and that has funneled city dollars to the attraction.

For years the city has tried to cut funding to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, including by as much as 53 percent in fiscal year 2012. But every year Italian businesses that line Arthur Avenue and the Belmont Business Improvement District petition those cuts. Thanks to letters by wildlife preservationists and protests staged by businesses — including Gino’s Pastry Shop’s owner sending empty pastry shells to City Council members — the city eventually restored the funding.

Approximately 2 million people visit the zoo each year, and Little Italy businesses recognize their dependance on zoo traffic. When the zoo eliminated its popular Holiday Lights Show program, the Belmont BID reported significant declines in revenue.

“People come to the zoo with the idea that they’ll go to Arthur Avenue afterwards for a bite, or they have the idea to come up to Little Italy before going to the zoo,” said Johnny Cerini, co-owner of Cerini Coffee & Gifts on the avenue. [Crain’s]