In front of the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, one of the great treasures of the majestic public space, the Central Park Conservancy announced on Tuesday what is believed to be the largest gift ever given to a public park. Thanks to a generous $100 million donation by hedge-fund manager and billionaire John Paulson, a native of Queens, and the Paulson Family Foundation, the park will continue to serve New Yorkers for years to come.
“This allows us to surge ahead,” said Doug Blonsky, president of the Conservancy. “Most importantly, it’s [the gift] helping to secure the future.”
The gift will bolster the conservancy’s $144 million endowment and will be used to maintain all areas of the park, including the restoration of the 90-acre North Woods and the landscaping surrounding the Merchant’s Gate off Columbus Circle.
In 1980, the city formed the partnership with the privately funded and run Central Park Conservancy to rescue a deteriorating park. Buildings covered in graffiti were cleaned up, grass was planted on patches of dirt, and the park was restored to its original grandeur.
Former New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says some of the earliest public-private partnerships began in New York, transforming sites from Lower East Side playgrounds to Park Avenue and Central Park.
The gift will also allow the Conservancy to continue to be a “model for public-private partnerships locally and worldwide,” according to the press release. Similar groups were created to manage public spaces like Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Battery Park.
Central Park, designed by 1Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1858 and completed in 1873, is a National Historic Landmark, and is considered by many to be the heart of New York City.
The generous donor Paulson, like Benepe, grew up going to Central Park.
“Walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that in my mind Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York’s cultural institutions,” said Paulson.