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John Paulson donates to Central Park

Central Park

Hedge-fund manager John Paulson and his foundation make the largest gift ever to any public park

Hedge fund manager John Paulson and his foundation make largest gift ever to any public park.

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson and the Paulson Family Foundation are donating $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy. It's the largest gift ever to any public park and one of the largest ever to a New York City cultural institution.

The gift, announced by the conservancy, which operates the uptown 843-acre oasis, will be used to manage, maintain and improve the park, which opened in 1857 and is visited by more than 40 million people a year. The conservancy raises more than 80% of its $45.8 million budget.

About half of Mr. Paulson's donation will go to the foundation, Doug Blonsky, president of the conservancy, told Bloomberg.

As of June 30, 2011, the conservancy's foundation is worth $145 million, according to its latest annual report.

"The conservancy is responsible for transforming and sustaining Central Park as the celebration of culture, nature and democracy that it is today," said Mr. Paulson in a statement. "It is my hope that today's contribution will help it endure and flourish and inspire others to join me in ensuring that the park continues to receive the support it needs to be this city's greatest asset."

Mr. Paulson is a Queens native whose Fifth Avenue apartment faces the park and has a view of its famous reservoir. Bloomberg values Mr. Paulson's fortune at $11.8 billion, so the gift represents just less than 1% of his net worth. His hedge fund firm, Paulson & Co., manages $21 billion.

Two important projects that will be funded by the donation are the restoration of the North Woods and the landscaping of the area surrounding the Merchant's Gate, which is at the southwest corner of the 843-acre park.

"Over the past 33 years, the Central Park Conservancy has led the world's most significant public park into the longest period of sustained health in its history," said Thomas Kempner Jr., chairman of the organization's board of trustees, in a statement. "John's gift helps ensure that its excellence endures for generations to come and acknowledges its importance to the cultural and economic health of New York City."

Theresa Agovino is a reporter at Crain's New York Business , a sister publication of Pensions & Investments.