New York’s Central Park Conservancy today announced that it has received a $100-million pledge from the financier John Paulson.
The donation, to be paid over five years, will be used to bolster the park’s $144-million endowment and for capital projects.
The gift from Mr. Paulson, a board member of the conservancy, is the largest the organization has ever received.
Mr. Paulson, a native New Yorker, approached the conservancy several years ago saying he wanted to make a large gift, recalls Douglas Blonsky, the organization’s chief executive.
The two men met for breakfast several times so they could discuss projects the conservancy had under way to maintain the park, including its work in the North Woods, a seldom-visited area of the park designed to look like the Adirondack Mountains. When Mr. Paulson wanted to see the North Woods for himself, Mr. Blonsky picked him up the next day at 6 a.m. for a 30-minute hike.
The trek instead lasted 90 minutes.
Impressed by its lush scenery of cascades, pools, and a waterfall, Mr. Paulson said he wanted to stay long enough to watch the conservancy’s staff members work. He later came up with a figure for his pledge based on what he thought were the most urgent priorities of the organization.
“They have a lot of pressure to meet their operating needs,” Mr. Paulson says. “So that’s why I want to strengthen their endowment.”
Mr. Blonsky says Mr. Paulson’s money will help restore playgrounds and 130 acres of woodlands.
More Big Donations
The gift is one of several major donations to New York City parks in the past year, including a $40-million pledge from Joshua Rechnitz to Brooklyn Bridge Park in April. In October, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg donated $20-million to the High Line, a park created from an old railway
Mr. Paulson says Central Park benefits all visitors and is key to the city’s landscape. “Central Park is the one institution that’s used by so many people. It’s also to me one of the most democratic institutions; it’s used by people of all ages, races, nationalities, income levels,” he says. “It’s hard to imagine what New York would be without Central Park.”