By MELANIE GOLDBERG
Central Park became the recipient Tuesday of $100 million, the largest gift ever to any park in the U.S., by financier John Paulson.
“Central Park is a paradise unlike anywhere else in the world,” said Paulson, president of Paulson & Co. investment firm as the Bethesda Fountain spouted behind him. “It’s simply impossible to imagine what New York would be like without Central Park. Of all New York City’s cultural institutions, Central Park is the most democratic.”
Central Park Conservancy President Doug Blonsky observed that the gift ushered the park into the “latest phase: long-term sustainability, unprecedented maintenance and management and a model for other parks and public spaces worldwide.”
Paulson’s donation would fund continued restoration of the park’s 21 playgrounds, 130 acres of woodlands, improvements to park-wide infrastructure and rest rooms, maintenance and upgrades of the five visitor centers and recreational facilities and the enhancement of youth and family programming. Fifty percent of the gift will focus on two of the most important projects the Conservancy faces: the restoration of the North Woods and the landscaping surrounding Merchant’s Gate in the southwest corner.
“Central Park has an enormous economic impact on our city, and that’s large in part due to the great work of the Conservancy, the Parks Department and the New York City Police Department, who have worked together since 1980 to restore Central Park to its glory and take it to new heights,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “This generous gift will ensure that the park remains a peaceful oasis right in the middle of the busiest city in the world and a community gathering place that is experienced by all New Yorkers.”
Forty million visitors use the park annually, bringing in about $1 billion dollars to the local economy. It is also the most used cultural institution in all of New York City.
“John is a man who knows a good investment when he sees one,” Blonsky said. “Today is a day of gratitude for your generosity and a celebration on behalf of the infinite number of people this gift has the potential to touch.”
Founded in 1980, the Central Park Conservancy has managed the investment of nearly $700 million into the park, almost $550 million of which was donated by private investors. It has been in charge of maintaining the park for 33 years.
“This gift is about more than the endurance of Central Park’s legacy and recognizing the necessity and uniqueness of the Conservancy,” Blonsky added. “Central Park was created by two individuals, Olmstead and Vaux, in 1858. Today, John [Paulson] joins these visionaries to sustain Central Park well into the future. This has always been a park designed for and sustained by the people. John shares that vision and thanks to him Central Park’s purpose will endure.”
Paulson’s donation brought the Conservancy’s funds to about $244 million .
Photo: Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Bethesda Fountain, Central Park.