Mysterious Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz Is Behind Brooklyn’s ‘Powerhouse Arts’

Rechnitz previously pledged $40 million for a project at Brooklyn Bridge Park that later fell through.

Three people pose for photo, two men in suits flank a woman in a dress.
Joshua Rechnitz (left) has kept a low profile in spite of his large philanthropic donations. Patrick McMullan

Powerhouse Arts, a new arts center in Brooklyn opening tomorrow (May 19), was funded solely by a $180 million donation by Joshua Rechnitz, a New York-based philanthropist who has largely shied away from public view.

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The six-story building will offer below-market rates for artists to utilize its printmaking, ceramics, metal and woodworking studios, as reported by The New York Times. It will also host public events and community programming.

The center, which has an estimated annual operating budget of $12 million to $16 million, will additionally showcase works from Brooklyn College MFA students through May and June and take part in a community block party in September.

Its 170,000 square foot site is known locally as the “Batcave” and was previously used as a power station by Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, long before it was purchased by Rechnitz in 2012 for $7 million.

Who is Joshua Rechnitz?

Rechnitz, who was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, comes from a long line of philanthropists. His grandfather was Robert Heilbrunn, an investor who targeted undervalued securities during the Depression and made donations to institutions like Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History and the American Heart Association.

Rechnitz’s parents have also focused on philanthropic endeavors, financing local theater in Red Bank and an arts building at Monmouth College.

The media-shy donor has worked in the film and animation industries for years, taking part in the short Natasha and Cartoon Sushi series. He is also a prominent art collector and has previously lent works to the Cress Gallery of Art at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, in addition to making donations to Creative Time, a public arts non-profit.

In 2012, Rechnitz made headlines when he pledged $40 million to create a field house and bicycle racing track at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the largest-ever donation to a New York City park at the time.

An amateur bike racer and partner at Manhattan bike shop Hudson Urban Bicycles, his plan included a 200-meter velodrom alongside a 115,000 square foot field house and 22,000 square foot infield. But in 2013, the project was cancelled over financial limitations.

Rechnitz stepped away from Powerhouse Arts after the building’s completion in 2022, according to The New York Times, which noted that the mysterious philanthropist is currently working on an organic farm venture in upstate New York.

Since 2018, Rechnitz has funded a number agricultural centers focused on sustainable farming in Hudson Valley, New York. He invested $3.4 million in two farms operated by land conservationist Bob Bernstein, but eventually sued Bernstein in 2021 for allegedly misleading him about the ventures’ financial viability. The suit was later settled.

Mysterious Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz Is Behind Brooklyn’s ‘Powerhouse Arts’