Saying Thanks

It’s common for celebrities, athletes and politicians to talk about “giving back” to others in recognition for the support they received as children or young adults.

Sometimes they actually do it. Sometimes they do it in ways that are absolutely inspiring. Such is the case of John A. Paulson. 

Mr. Paulson, a hedge fund manager, was born in Queens and spent many happy hours in Central Park as a child and young adult. Now, decades later, Mr. Paulson is giving back to the park that created all those memories. He has made a $100 million donation to the Central Park Conservancy—the largest gift of money ever to the city’s park system.

Mr. Paulson’s gift is notable for lots of reasons. It is, after all, an extraordinary act of generosity. It comes at a time when the city will be looking to make significant spending cuts, thanks to another sizable deficit in the next fiscal year. But it’s also worth noting that the gift comes after years of superb work by the beneficiary of Mr. Paulson’s generosity, the Central Park Conservancy.

This private group laid the groundwork for Mr. Paulson’s gift by revitalizing the park after the neglect of the 1970s and the effects of budget cuts in the late 1980s. Some will remember the criticism the Conservancy faced when it signed a management agreement with the city in 1998 that gave the group a formal role in the park’s maintenance. Critics charged that the Conservancy was intent on “privatizing” the park, simply because it was raising private money for the benefit of this spectacular public space.

Of course, nothing like that has happened. The Conservancy has been a model of public-private cooperation, as any stroll through the park will demonstrate.

Mr. Paulson’s gift to the Conservancy is a wonderful act of philanthropy. It also is a tribute to the work of the Conservancy, an organization that certainly is worthy of Mr. Paulson’s confidence and his civic spirit.

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