Central Park was in a state of decay
By the 1970s, Central Park was in a state of decay. Bridges were crumbling.
Meadows had dried up. Graffiti and vandalism blighted playgrounds and benches. There was an overwhelming feeling that its best days had passed. "Positive use had increasingly been displaced by illicit and illegal activity," is how the Central Park Conservancy describes it today.
Then George Soros stepped in. Frustrated by what he and others saw as New York City's inept management of the 160-year-old institution, Soros and another financier commissioned a study on potential fixes.
Its chief recommendation was creating a private citizen-based board to oversee an individual running the park's operations -- in effect, allowing private citizens to control the park. Soon the not-for-profit Central Park Conservancy was created, and the area returned to its former glory.
Thirty years later the conservancy provides 75% of a nearly $60 million annual park budget and is a New York institution unto itself. The board of trustees includes former J.P. Morgan Chairman and CEO William Harrison, KKR's Henry Kravis, and the hedge fund manager John Paulson, who two years ago announced he would give $100 million to the conservancy, the largest park donation ever.
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