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Famous New York Philanthropists

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New York City could be considered the home of philanthropy. The city has a long history of giving by its many wealthy residents. The majority of the city’s many parks exist due to the efforts of giving women. Betsy Head Park was named after the British immigrant who bequeathed the city a large amount of money when she died in 1907 for building recreational facilities. Half of her estate was dedicated to children’s welfare improvement and the other half to purchasing grounds for healthy recreation.

In 1961 the estate of Loula D. Lasker provided $600,000 to build Lasker Rink in Central Park. While she was alive, Ms. Lasker worked actively in Hadassah and took great interest in alleviating housing problems within the city.

Mary Rumsey was part of a philanthropic family and helped many causes during her lifetime from 1881-1934. Rumsey Playfield in Central Park was named in her honor.

The last surviving member of a charitable family, Kate Wollman, lived from 1870-1955. Ms. Wollman paid special interest to children’s welfare. As a memorial to her parents, she gave $600,000 for the construction of Wollman Rink in Central Park. After her death, the estate perpetuated her contributions and in 1961 these were used to build a skating rink at Prospect Park in Brooklyn dedicated to her memory.

Generosity on the part of NYC inhabitants continues to this day. On March 29th, 2012, Harold Grinspoon, a Jewish émigré was honored for his longtime commitment to the Russian-speaking Jewish community. The event was held at The Museum of Jewish Heritage and marked the 10th anniversary of the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations. Mr. Grinspoon has used monies made from his real estate business to establish the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is to promote Jewish life among young people, adults and families. More than $110 million have been distributed to programs, grants and operations for programs throughout the Jewish world community. He established the PJ Library program that sends children’s books to 100,000 children every month reaching out to the next generation.

Well known celebrities who live in New York City often show their generosity through gifts. Bette Midler has sponsored neighborhood garden projects which has turned 60 city-owned lots into gardens. Through her efforts more than 80,000 tons of trash have been removed from local parks, more than 400 acres of riverfront parkland have been reclaimed and dozens of community gardens have been saved from destruction. It is not just money that makes a difference in the city, but putting one’s name and efforts behind a cause.

Many people prefer to quietly give gifts. Bruce Kovner might not appear often in the press but is one of New York’s unassuming philanthropists. He recently donated $25 million to Lincoln Center in order to support its ongoing renovation.

News stories about schools with no playing fields touched the heart of Laurie Tisch Sussman. She then persuaded her father to fund the building of 43 athletic centers for needy schools. Her foundation donates more than $30 million annually to various art groups.

The well-known model who survived a tsunami herself, Petra Nemcova, has established a fund to help other disaster victims. Thus far she has raised $1.3 million for this cause. She supported an auction at Ciprianai’s where she donated a dinner with herself and two other models, bringing a $75,000 donation.

The Metropolitan Opera got a $25 million donation from Mercedes Bass and her husband, Sid. This was the largest single gift that had been received in its 123-year history and came without restrictions on its use.

The Whitney Museum trustees followed a suggestion by Leonard Lauder to spend $200 million on art works by Pop Artists and Abstract Expressionists. Then Mr. Lauder covered most of the donation himself.

Henry Kravis is a NYC financier. He and his economist wife, Marie-Josée Kravis, who is a member of the Hudson Institute board, made a $25 million donation to the Marie-Josée Kravis and an additional $10 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also gift several other New York charities.

This list really covers only a few of the many philanthropists who keep NYC parks, arts and medical facilities among the world’s best.

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