When my wife left for work this morning, she grabbed her jacket, expecting to be part of a staff photo.

It turns out she was headed for a very different event. My wife, China, works at the Central Park Conservancy. And this morning, she was on hand when the park announced that it would be the recipient of $100 million to the park’s endowment — believed to be the largest gift to a public park in history.

At left center in blue tie, John Paulson, the donor. In the copper-colored tie, Central Park Conservancy CEO Douglas Blonsky.
China Ziegenbein

From The New York Times:

At at press conference at Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain on Tuesday morning, Mayor Bloomberg and the Central Park Conservancy announced that John A. Paulson, the hedge fund billionaire, along with the Paulson Family Foundation were giving $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy. …

Mr. Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, said that as an infant he was pushed around in a baby carriage in the park and later remembers going to Bethesda Fountain as a teenager and seeing it covered in graffiti, with no water flowing. When asked at the press conference what prompted the gift, Mr. Paulson said that “walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that in my mind Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York’s cultural institutions. And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large and its endowment is relatively small.”

The park’s current endowment stands at $144 million. Half of Mr. Paulson’s gift will go to the endowment, while the other half will be used for capital improvements.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauds Paulson.
China Ziegenbein

John Paulson was profiled by The New Yorker in 2010, which focused on the bet that made him rich: betting against the housing market shortly before the crash. Paulson’s been in a giving spirit recently, also laying out $1 million for a pro-Romney super PAC. People are complex.

The park’s annual budget is $45.8 million. Each year, over 40 million people visit its 843 acres. My dog loves it. Yes, my wife works there, but it’s really one hell of a park.