NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Money Saved Central Park

November 22, 1999

Over the past two decades, private donors have turned New York City's Central Park from an urban embarrassment into a jewel of an asset -- and the dominant model for other cities across the nation to emulate in efforts to restore their own parks.

  • So far, the park's wealthy neighbors and others have raised $233 million through the Central Park Conservancy -- the largest amount of private dollars ever raised to save a public park.
  • The money has funded projects ranging from removing graffiti to paying for bronze-preservation specialists to polish and wax all 50 of the park's statues every year.
  • Eighty percent of the donations has come from about 20 percent of the conservancy donors -- hundreds of whom live within a block of the park.
  • Donors have endowed 600 park benches -- at $5,000 for a standard bench and $25,000 for a rustic hand-hewed model -- as well as 400 trees, which go for anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 each.

"Pretty soon we will be down to blades of grass," says one of the chief fund-raisers.

Donations depend upon socially prestigious events such as glittering parties and balls. The multimillionaires whose windows and penthouses look down on the park give the conservancy an advantage similar groups do not enjoy. Members have recently been debating whether to use some of their funds to help spruce up parks in poorer areas of the city.

Source: Blaine Harden, "Neighbors Give Central Park a Wealthy Glow," New York Times, November 22, 1999.


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