Large Gifts Bypass Most New York City Parks

Notwithstanding the $100 million gift to the Central Park Conservancy last year from hedge fund manager John A. Paulson, the largest gift ever given to an American park, a vast fundraising gulf exists between the crown jewels of the New York City parks system and parks in less affluent areas of the city, the New York Times reports.

The disparity is evident in places like Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, one of the largest parks in the city and the setting for two World's Fairs, which managed to raise only $5,000 through the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy in 2012. The lack of resources for park upkeep is apparent in the condition of its cracked and pitted bicycle and walking paths and natural areas overgrown with invasive species. Across the East River in Upper Manhattan, Friends of Morningside Park has seen a slight increase in contributions since Paulson's gift was announced. But Brad W. Taylor, a past president of the organization, is wary of the trend, which he sees leading to less public financing for city parks in general. "That's just a recipe for disaster," Taylor told the Times, "especially in parks that cannot raise that kind of money."

That view is shared by Linda R. Cox, the Bronx River administrator for the NYC Parks Department as well as director of the Bronx River Alliance, who said the unequal distribution of philanthropic dollars for high-profile parks like Central Park is unsurprising, since most deep-pocketed philanthropists tend to live on or near parks in the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

"We can't kid ourselves that some parks and some projects aren't going to come to the notice of really wealthy donors more easily than others," Cox told the Times. "That's something that as a city we are going to need to reckon with over time."

Lisa W. Foderaro. "New York Parks in Less Affluent Areas Lack Big Gifts." New York Times 02/17/2013.