Cute pandas will save the city’s economy – and ease tensions between the United States and China, local billionaire John Catsimatidis declared during a bizarre press conference on Tuesday.
“New York is in deep doo-doo right now. We need tourism, we need people to come to New York,” Catsimatidis told reporters at his Midtown office. “Who doesn’t love pandas? Everybody loves pandas, they’re beautiful.”
Catsimatidis — who wore a tie featuring illustrations of pandas he claimed he made himself — made the call after China demanded three pandas be returned from the National Zoo in Washington.
He did not know which zoo could house the pandas, but offered to pay for a pavilion to be built for the cuddly creatures. He said if they were at the Central Park Zoo he’d visit “every day.”
A spokesperson for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the city’s zoos, said in a statement that the group has not been involved in any recent discussion to bring pandas to the five boroughs.
Catsimatidis also claimed to have the support of Mayor Eric Adams and Huang Ping, the Chinese consulate general in New York.
Representatives for Adams and Ping did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Catsimatidis, who is a radio talk show host and the head of the Gristedes grocery store chain, claimed the pandas would attract 10 million additional tourists to the city each year, but did not explain how he came up with the number.
He hoped to pitch the idea at a U.S.-China Cultural Foundation event at Carnegie Hall Tuesday night.
“Instead of the generals wanting to create wars, I want to create peace,” he said. “We can call it ‘Pandas for Peace’ or ‘Peace with Pandas.’”
Chinese President Xi Jinping said after his summit with President Joe Biden in San Francisco last week that “we are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation.” The remarks seemed to signal a new era in panda politics.
During her time in Congress, former Rep. Carolyn Maloney long lobbied for pandas to be brought to New York. She said former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China ended any hope of the ursine animals arriving in the Big Apple.
“Maybe with the help of the leadership of Mr. Catsimatidis and others, maybe they can bring them back. It’s an enjoyable thing and everybody loves animals. They’re adorable animals,” Maloney said, adding that she loves to watch a livestream of pandas.