Billionaire Trumps Joshua Rechnitz’s $40 Million BBP Donation: $100M For Central Park

Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz’s $40 million donation for the design & construction of a 115,000-square-foot year-round, multi-use recreation facility near Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 has been trumped. In April, when the Manhattan-based Founder & Chairman of the non-profit New York City Fieldhouse announced the gift, it was deemed the largest donation ever for a New York City public park.

Now, make that the second largest. The New York Times reports that Tuesday, hedge fund billionaire John A. Paulson and his Paulson Family Foundation have donated $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy, more than doubling Rechnitz’s consistently controversial Fieldhouse gift.

Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, said that as an infant he was pushed around in a baby carriage in Central Park and that he remembers going to Bethesda Fountain as a teenager and seeing it covered in graffiti, with no water flowing. The park’s current endowment stands at $144 million. Half of Mr. Paulson’s gift will go to the endowment, while the other half will be used for capital improvements.

“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,” he said at a news conference. “And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large, and its endowment is relatively small.”

Perhaps 50 years from now, a prominent Brooklynite will recall being strolled around Brooklyn Bridge Park as an infant and pony up $100M for its upkeep. Imagine how magnificent it will be by then. (Photo: joshisagoodman/Flickr BHB Photo Club)

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  • Monty

    It’s contingent on a Jai Alai court, short track speed skating rink and Mesoamerican ballcourt.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Don’t forget indoor fly-fishing.

  • David on Middagh

    I heard Yahtzee.

  • carol

    Paulson’s gift seems to be a gift (50% for capital improvements and 50% for an endowment). The Rechnitz money comes with strings. In other words, would a velodrome be on anybody’s top ten list if Brooklyn Bridge Park got a real gift of $40 million?

  • Jorale-man

    @Carol makes a crucial point. Paulson’s gift is largely unrestricted (aside from the general stipulation that some of it go towards restoring the North Woods and the gate on the SW corner). But it’s about enhancing what’s already there.

    Imagine if BBP had received a $100 million gift. There might not be the need for hotels in the park and the park officials would be less eager to accept $40 million for a needless velodrome.

  • Wiley E.

    How many people did Paulson rip-off to earn 100 million $ to give away?

  • GHB

    Wiley, interesting how your avatar is green (for jealousy)

  • Wiley E.

    I am not jealous of rich people. The Bible says they will have a hard time getting to heaven.

  • gatornyc

    Fieldhouse/velodrome, which will provide year round indoor recreation space (track is elevated so there is an entire first floor available for other uses) or a maintenance builiding. Why is this a difficult choice?

    And for the why can’t it just be grass folks, there is a TON of green open space in the park already. The Fieldhouse provides something that is otherwise non-existant.

  • Andrew Porter

    Yes, let’s have an enormous building with no windows, versus a gift of millions to support maintenance and restoration of swards of greenery.

    I’m looking for someone to give BBP $80 million for a petroleum refinery, which will benefit all those drivers in the Heights forced to endlessly move their cars to accommodate film shoots.

  • That’s Sillly

    Andrew Porter – have you seen a design for this building? How do you know it has no windows. For all you know it could be a big glass cube. This just illustrates how silly all of the anti-velodrome arguments are. They are all based on people worst case scenario assumptions about what will happen. The fact is that not much is known right now about it. It’s still very much in a formative stage. What we do know is that the folks at BBP have shown excellent judgement so far in building out the beautiful portions of the park that already exist, and maybe that should earn them the benefit of the doubt.

  • NYC mom

    The fieldhouse is not too different from the fieldhouse at Chelsea piers….except that it is going to be public and house a cycling track in addition to the other traditional fieldhouse sports. Would anyone say that the west side of manhattan would be better off with more green space and that we should demolish Chelsea piers? Have we forgotten that our city has at least one month a year that is too hot to be outside and at least another 3 that are too cold to be outside? There will always be naysayers. Let’s just hope that intelligent minded grateful brooklynites win out.

  • Wiley E.

    Please, build a regulation sized velodrome somewhere else that already has a big ready-built parking lot. Stop being silly. It doesn’t belong in BBP.

  • Jorale-man

    My sense is that Chelsea Piers was always a mixed success. Yes, it came of age in the early 90s when most of the piers on the West Side were derelict and in need some kind of revival. On the other hand, it is a huge encroachment on public space and not really open to its surroundings.

    A big concern I have with the velodrome is, even if it has some windows on it, it’s not going to make the park a nicer, more serene place to enjoy. Remember that Brooklyn doesn’t have a lot of parkland. We will be sacrificing a good chunk of it by building this thing.