A mayoral forum Monday offered candidates a rare chance on the campaign trail – to prove they’re the biggest ally to the city’s furry friends.
BY ERIN DURKIN
Seeking to one up each other on four-legged bona fides, the hopefuls mixed policy proposals with boasts about their vegetarian kids and their families’ beloved pets.
Republican John Catsimatidis used his opening statement to tell how his family summoned the FDNY for an elaborate rescue of his daughter’s cockatiel – which was successful – and his wife attempted mouth to mouth resuscitation on their dying cat, which was not.
Not only that, but he has “cat” in his name.
“I’m John Catsimatidis. Some people call me 'The Cat Man.' I love animals,” he said.
In making the case for a bill barring landlord from denying apartments to seniors because they own pets, former City Councilman Sal Albanese cited a chihuahua named Joey he said had helped prolong his mother in law's life for several years.
When she passed away, the pooch was the “estate” that he and his wife inherited, he said. Not to be outdone, former Controller Bill Thompson said his family had adopted two rescue cats.
And Controller John Liu offered up a strong opinion on pet owners who shell out thousands on so-called “pure-bred” animals. “We’ve rejected that notion for human beings. Why would we allow that to continue for dogs and cats?” Liu said. He backed a measure to require city pet stores to sell only animals from shelters or rescues.
If having pets in the family was a talking point, so too was having vegetarians.
“I have a confession to make – I’m not a vegetarian yet,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who quickly noted that his two kids are. “I am very proud of the fact that my wife and I have raised two vegetarians.”
Candidates who didn’t show for the forum were tarred as anti-animal. Catsimatidis, who, like the others on the panel, thought the mass extermination of geese in Prospect Park in 2010 due to aircraft safety concerns was overkill, threw in a swipe at rival Joe Lhota.
“My opponent…wanted to kill all the deer in Staten Island,” he charged.
But the biggest punching bag was City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a longtime target of the group that hosted the forum, New Yorkers For Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, which is part of an anti-Quinn political committee that has aired attack ads against her.
Allie Feldman, who heads the group, set the tone by asking audience members to take out their phones and call Quinn about banning horse carriages.
“There is one thing that everyone in this room can agree on and that is that Christine Quinn has not been a friend to animals,” she said.
Later, each candidate was offered a chance to speculate about why Quinn would not take action against the carriages, and each echoed the charge first made by Liu that it’s because “she hasn’t gotten the OK from Mayor Bloomberg.”
But only de Blasio supported NY CLASS’s key goal of completely banning the horse-drawn carriages, while others talked about testing out alternatives or phasing them out gradually.
“This is inhumane,” de Blasio said. “We don’t say, look at that, it’s inhumane, but it’s so quaint and historic, lets continue it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Update: Quinn spokesman Mike Morey said: "Chris Quinn is the proud owner of two rescue dogs and although she disagrees with the organizers' goal of banning carriage horses, as Speaker of the City Council she has a strong record on animal rights, including expanding funding for spay and neutering programs through an overhaul of licensing fees, increased safety measures for kennels, and she passed laws cracking down on the abuse of animals. Furthermore, as mayor she has committed to making the New York City shelter system a NO KILL shelter system."