John Paulson’s $100-million gift to Central Park

Paulson and Bloomberg (Dana Rubinstein.)
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John Paulson and his family foundation have made the largest donation ever to a New York City greensward with a $100 million gift to the conservancy that helps run Central Park, the hedge fund manager announced at a press conference in the park this morning, alongside Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"This generous gift will ensure that the park remains as Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned it a century and a half ago," Bloomberg said in a statement, calling it "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 on equal grounds, regardless of background or walk of life."

Paulson, whose net worth is estimated to be north of $10 billion dollars, gave a total of $100 million to the park.

Half of the money will go to the Central Park Conservancy's permanent endowment, bringing the endowment's size to nearly $200 million.

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Half will go to capital projects like restoration of the North Woods and landscaping around Merchants' Gate in the park's southwest corner because, while the park is great, Paulson said, "more work needs to be done."

Paulson was raised in Bayside and attended New York University. He has previously given large donations to NYU's business school and other charitable causes, but none quite as generous as his gift to the park.

Paulson has personal connections to Central Park. His grandparents had their first dates there. His parents went there as kids, as did he: "When I was a baby, my parents strolled me around in a carriage,” he said today.

Now he takes his own children to Central Park.

Asked if he could see the park from his home, Paulson didn't answer.

Though one of the arguments for public-private partnerships is that they allow the city to dedicate scarce resources elsewhere, today the mayor indicated this new funding would have no trickle-down effect on other parks.

“Well, one has nothing to do with another,” said Bloomberg. “The city tries to make sure that we do as much for all parks as we can in all boroughs. Some parks have more access to private philanthropy, and those help those, but it doesn’t mean we’re gonna transfer any monies from one place to another.”

Paulson is also a fund-raiser for Mitt Romney, having hosted the Republican candidate in Manhattan in April, and contributed $1 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney.

New Yorker article last week touched on the relationship between charitable giving and tax policy, in the context of many billionaires' displeasure with President Barack Obama:

Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” [billionaire Leon] Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.”