The Manhattan hedge fund manager John Paulson has made a $100 million gift to the Central Park Conservancy. The gift is the largest, ever, to a public park. The gift will contribute to the restoration of the park’s wild-seeming North Woods and its southwest entrance at Columbus Circle, as well as to building up the conservancy’s endowment.
Paulson—a billionaire who grew up in Queens, went to college in Lower Manhattan, and lives across Fifth Avenue from Central Park—grew up playing in the park and continues to use it today. “I enjoy Central Park almost every day, particularly walking, cycling, and running through the Park. My children enjoy the carousel, the zoo, the row boats, and the playgrounds. I’m continually amazed at the incredible beauty of the park and in awe of the work and talent of the conservancy.”
Paulson noted that the park wasn’t always the pristine jewel that it is today. “In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was in serious disrepair—its infrastructure was crumbling, its landscapes were in shambles and it was plagued with drugs and crime.” Central Park was rescued and restored by creative philanthropy: a public-private partnership in which the nonprofit sector raised funds for and took over management of the park.
In our most recent issue, Evan Sparks tells the story of how Central Park was revived—and how it became a model for park revitalization across America. Also in Philanthropy, Myron Magnet records the life of the donor who made Central Park’s revival possible: Richard Gilder.
Thanks to private management and visionary giving, Central Park enjoys more than three times the visitors it did during its 1970s nadir. This steady stream of delighted visitors—native New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike—inspires Paulson. “Of all of New York City’s great cultural institutions, I believe Central Park is the most democratic,” he says. “It’s open to people of all ages, income levels, race, religion and nationality. It’s open every day and all day. It’s enjoyed by millions of New Yorkers every year. And it is free. A contribution to Central Park Conservancy benefits all New Yorkers.”
For more on Paulson’s gift, check out this recent New York Times piece.