Central Park gets $100M gift from John Paulson
The grass just got a whole lot greener in Central Park, as hedge fund billionaire John Paulson gave a $100 million gift to the Central Park Conservancy, officials said Tuesday.
The Queens native, who now lives on the Upper East Side, set the record for the largest individual donation ever given to the 155-year-old park -- or any public park -- dwarfing a $17 million gift in 1993.
"It's the largest made to any park anywhere," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at news conference at Bethesda Fountain Tuesday. "It's not a gift to the park but a gift to everyone."
Paulson, who Forbes estimates is worth about $12.3 billion, said his grandparents had their first date in the park, and that he skated there as a child.
"Central Park is a paradise unlike anywhere else in the world," said Paulson.
The Conservancy will put half of the donation into its endowment, which is currently $144 million, and use the other half for restoration and maintenance, including work on the North Woods and the Merchant's Gate, according to published reports.
"Central Park was created by two individuals -- Olmsted and Vaux -- in 1858. In 1980, a group of individuals banded together to restore it to its long-forgotten glory," Doug Blonsky, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, said Tuesday. "Today, John joins these visionaries to sustain Central Park well into the future."
Though the donation is a tremendous boon for the park, some city park advocates and park-goers hope that the city's other public spaces don't go forgotten.
"I'm very happy that Central Park is the beneficiary of this large gift, but I think it speaks volumes to how the city funds its other parks, which they don't adequately," said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, a public parks watchdog group. He added that the half going into the park's endowment could be better spent elsewhere.
"It creates an enormous disparity between other city parks," he said. "I could spend $100 million at Flushing Meadow Park in a second."
Helen Rosenthal, 51, of the Upper West Side, agreed.
"I think he should double it and give the other half to the parks that are not as well known so that people in other parts of the city get parks like this one," she said.
Still, some New Yorkers were pleased with Paulson's gift.
"Wow," said Shirley Schaye, 71, who lives across from the park's 90th Street entrance. "I'm shocked. That's wonderful. I'm thrilled to hear it," she said, adding that the conservancy should consider building a new dog park.
Kelley Cornish, 54, also of the UWS, said the donation was "phenomenal," and that they should use some of it on improving safety conditions.
"Maybe some more lighting for when it's getting darker, for safety," she said.