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Editorial: Pandas, perfect NYC superstars

Giant panda bear cub Bao Bao inspects a

Giant panda bear cub Bao Bao inspects a keeper's hand inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC. (Jan. 6, 2014) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Who doesn't love pandas?

Rep. Carolyn Maloney is smitten, but Mayor Bill de Blasio, not so much.

The Manhattan congresswoman has been on a 15-year quest to bring a couple of the cute, black-and-white bears from China to New York City. They would take up residence at the Bronx Zoo or the Central Park Zoo.

In August she got a promise from Chinese officials to allow New York to buy two of the animals that in the wild live only in that country's mountains. For that to happen, the officials want letters of support from both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo reportedly has expressed interest but the besieged mayor isn't on board.

Officially, a spokeswoman for de Blasio said only that "there are more pressing concerns for New York City than securing pandas." That's obviously true. And zoo officials are wary of the cost of boarding the bears. But, so what?

Clearing the way for New York City to host pandas -- sometimes called ambassadors for all endangered species because their teddy bear looks elicit such warm affection -- would divert de Blasio's attention from other concerns only long enough to sign his name.

And the city, roiled by racial strife and the killing of two police officers, could use a brief respite.

Chinese officials want about $2 million for the pandas, plus more for any cub eventually born. And pandas are expensive houseguests. Each one eats about 45 pounds of bamboo and vegetables a day, earning a spot among the most costly zoo animals.

But raising the money from private donors shouldn't be that difficult. And New Yorkers will surely find a way to make a buck off having a couple of the world's most lovable bears come to town.

There are only about 2,000 pandas in the wild. The 180 or so in captivity are wildly popular, including female Mei Xiang (beautiful fragrance in Chinese), male Tian Tian (more and more) and their little girl Bao Bao (precious treasure) at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Pandas are zoo superstars, so what better place than New York City for a celebrity couple to call home.


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