A famed philanthropist donated $10 million last week to restore a 26-acre stretch of Prospect Park to its original glory, but even with the generous contribution, funding for the expansive project is only halfway secured.
Shelby White, widow of the Wall Street investor Leon Levy and head of the Leon Levy Foundation, donated the money to the planned Lakeside Center — a $75-million project that would demolish the run-down, but popular, Wollman skating rink and replace it with a multipurpose recreation and education venue with new rinks, plus restore the area back to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s original 19th-century design.
White — a Brooklyn native — decided to donate to Prospect Park because she spent so much time there as a child, “horseback riding [and] rowing with my junior high school boyfriend from Walt Whitman JHS.”
“And, sorry, Mike,” she joked with Mayor Bloomberg during a May 22 press conference to announce the donation, “I smoked my first cigarette in this park.”
The $10-million grant might seem like chump change compared to the $340 million that White has donated to other parks, gardens, archeology programs at universities, brain research groups, civil and human rights organizations, and Jewish culture and art institutions since 2004, but park officials remain stunned by the size of the contribution.
“This is by far the biggest grant we’ve ever even thought about getting — let alone going out to apply for,” said Prospect Park Alliance President Tupper Thomas.
Even with the $10-million contribution, the park remains $38.5-million short of its projected budget, but park officials say they’re confident the money will come.
Since 2004, the city has allocated $25 million to the project, which could start in late 2009 or early 2010. In March, the Alliance landed its first major private grant when the Independence Community Foundation pledged $1.5 million.
©2008 Community News Group
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