Billionaire gives $100 million to Central Park

Oct 23, 2012, 8:41 PM

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) – A billionaire hedge fund manager pledged $100 million Tuesday to the private organization that maintains Central Park in partnership with New York City.

John A. Paulson’s gift to the Central Park Conservancy is believed to be the largest gift ever to a public park. It will be paid out by Paulson and his Paulson Family Foundation.

Paulson, the founder and president of Paulson & Co., joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg and conservancy officials to announce the gift at the park’s Bethesda Fountain.

“John is a man who knows a good investment when he sees one,” conservancy CEO Doug Blonsky said. “Central Park is fundamental to the economic and cultural health of New York City and the quality of life of its residents.”

Paulson, a 56-year-old Queens native who said he was taken to Central Park as a child, called it the most democratic of New York’s great cultural institutions. “A contribution to Central Park Conservancy benefits all New Yorkers,” he said.

The conservancy raises more than 80 percent of the park’s $45.8 million annual budget.

Paulson said that the park was falling into disrepair before the conservancy was formed in 1980. “Its infrastructure was crumbling, its landscapes were in shambles and it was plagued with drugs and crime,” he said.

Half of Paulson’s gift will go to capital improvements and half to the park’s endowment, currently at $144 million.

Conservancy officials said the funds will go to maintain all the park’s facilities, including 21 playgrounds and 130 acres of woodlands.

Private organizations help raise money for some of the city’s other parks but their budgets are tiny compared with the Central Park Conservancy.

Some advocates of city parks have complained that other parks are neglected in comparison to Central Park, one of the city’s best-known destinations.

“It’s wonderful for Central Park, but there are thousands of other park properties in New York City that desperately need funding,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “This gift is a reminder of the enormous disparities that exist between the haves and the have-nots.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Billionaire gives $100 million to Central Park