In what is believed to be the largest gift ever to a public park, hedge fund manager John A. Paulson, 56, has pledged $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy, the organization that maintains New York City's famous Central Park.
The billionaire founder and president of Paulson & Co. considers Central Park "the most democratic of New York's great culture institutions," the Associated Press reports, saying that his donation will benefit every New Yorker.
"An urban oasis for visitors from all over New York City and the world, Central Park's significance to New York cannot be overstated," Paulson said, adding that he visits the 843-acre park almost daily to run or bike.
Half of the donation will go toward financial maintenance, while the other half will cover capital improvements. Most unusual for a donation this large, Paulson is not asking for anything in the park to bear his name.
The pledge will be paid out by Paulson and his Paulson Family Foundation over five years: $60 million the first year, then $10 million a year for the next four years.
The donation will ensure long-term success for the park with a history of periods of decline, the New York Times reports.
"The cycles of decline and restoration that this park has suffered for so long will be broken forever," Doug Blonsky, president of the conservancy, said in a news conference attended by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
"It will sustain and advance the innovation of the Conservancy's management and maintenance practices and allow for improvements to park-wide infrastructure, Central Park's 21 playgrounds, 130 acres of woodlands, five visitor centers, and youth and family programming and recreation facilities," the Central Park Conservancy announced in a press release.
What prompted his generosity?
"Walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that, in my mind, Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York's cultural institutions. And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large, and its endowment is relatively small," Paulson, who was born and raised in Queens and now lives and works near the park, told the New York Times.
"I wanted the amount to make a difference," he added.
Forbes estimates Paulson's personal net worth to be around $12.3 billion.
The previous record donation to the park was $17 million in 1993, Reuters reports.