Joe Lhota, Deer Hunter?

by Patrick Brennan

On Monday evening, Joseph Lhota, former head of New York’s transit system and leading Republican candidate for mayor of New York, went to Staten Island, New York City’s red state, and seems to have played to the crowd by hesitantly giving support to the idea of allowing deer hunting within the city limits. The Staten Island Advance reports:

Lhota . . . was at the Annadale Diner on Monday to pick up the endorsement of Assemblyman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore).

With reports of deer sightings growing across the city, including on the Island, Lhota said, “You do need to do something to control the growth of the deer population.”

“The next mayor is going to have to figure out how hunting is going to work,” said Lhota, who hunts deer upstate. “I know a lot of hunters from Staten Island who go upstate to go hunting,” Lhota said. “They’re going to want to say, ‘Hey, we can do it here at home.”

But don’t worry, he’s not doing anything so extreme as actually endorsing the possession of firearms within the five boroughs:

Lhota said that if deer hunting were permitted, it should be with a bow and arrow.

Current law prohibits hunting within the five boroughs, but bow-hunting is permitted in Suffolk and Westchester counties and elsewhere. Lhota said it could work on the Island, unique among the boroughs for its rural areas.

The Advance in 2012 estimated that there are hundreds of deer on the Island, spurring public safety concerns after deer were spotted on busy Manor Road and Rockland and Brielle avenues.

Lhota acknowledged that animal-rights activists wouldn’t be pleased to see expanded deer hunting. “Not everybody believes in hunting,” Lhota said. “So we need to have a public debate.”

Lhota, however, later played down the story to the Times’ City Room blog:

“I was opposed to [hunting] then and I am now,” Mr. Lhota told us. “I don’t think it should be done.” He added: “I would be opposed to any hunting in the five boroughs. Definitely gun hunting I’d be opposed to. As I said yesterday there should be a discussion of using the bow and arrow approach, but if I had that discussion today I would be opposed to even the bow and arrow as a form of hunting.”

He claimed, when shown the story by the Advance, that his words had been distorted, but the reporter has stood by his story.

Lhota appeared along with other candidates at a forum on the Upper East Side last night, and sparred with them about education reform. Lhota is considered the Republican front-runner, and Christine Quinn, current speaker of the New York City Council, is considered the Democratic favorite. She leads Lhota pretty substantially in general-election polls, too.

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