The new era of parks philanthropy began in the 1980s, when private donors created the Central Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that has since taken a central role in shaping the park. Starting in the late 1990s, Friends of Hudson River Park, a likewise privately bankrolled nonprofit, has helped expand what is now the second-biggest park in Manhattan. Diller Island (although it won’t be called that) will further transform the shoreline.
One result of this influx of funds into putatively public parks is that the city’s more affluent sections have nicer open spaces and playgrounds. Central Park is now a gleaming jewel thanks to $700 million in private investments, and two years ago a hedge fund manager — who lives in a mansion steps from the park — gave $100 million to shine it further. Private money now covers 75 percent of the park’s annual operating budget.
Meanwhile, many parks, starved of funds, have fallen into disrepair. This fall Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to spend $130 million to upgrade 35 parks in poor neighborhoods — the same amount Mr. Diller and his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, pledged for the new 2.7-acre park.