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The Daily Plant : Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leon Levy Foundation Helps Green NYC

Photo by Spencer T Tucker

By donating $15 million for the New York Botanical Garden and $10 million for Prospect Park, the Leon Levy Foundation has provided the largest private “greening” gift in New York City’s history

On May 22, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and philanthropist Shelby White announced the gift at the Prospect Park Picnic House. The $15 million grant to the New York Botanical Garden will create a new Native Plant Garden for the study and display of indigenous species. The $10 million grant to Prospect Park will help fund the Lakeside Center, a 26-acre area that will be restored to the original design of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

The Mayor and Ms. White were joined at the announcement by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin, Prospect Park Alliance Chair Albert H. Garner and New York Botanical Garden president and CEO Gregory Long.

“These generous gifts are going to two signature New York institutions and they are an impressive addition to the legacy of the Leon Levy foundation,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Shelby White is a great philanthropist and New Yorker, and I thank her for all she has done for our City, the impact of these gifts will be felt for decades.”

“The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and Prospect Park in Brooklyn are two of our City’s greatest green treasures,” said Ms. White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “Both are particularly meaningful to me: I played in Prospect Park as a child growing up in Brooklyn, and I have served as a board member of the New York Botanical Garden for many years. The Botanical Garden’s new Native Plant Garden and Prospect Park’s restoration project will only strengthen these two extraordinary institutions.”

The $10 million Leon Levy Foundation grant, the largest ever received by Prospect Park, will go toward the planned 26-acre Lakeside Center restoration project. It will help enable the Prospect Park Alliance to restore the Park’s historic Music Island, Lakeside Promenade and views from the Concert Grove Terrace to their original design as envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

The $75 million Lakeside Center project has received commitments from the City totaling $25 million. The Independence Community Foundation has donated an additional $1.5 million to the Project, which will build a new facility for skating and other year round activities on a site better suited to the original plan. The grant will fund the demolition of Wollman Rink, which is the first step toward bringing back the area’s native trees, shrubs and scenic aquatics. New rinks will be built nearby. In addition, Music Island, once at the site of Wollman Rink, will be rebuilt as a natural habitat sanctuary, pedestrian viewing paths will be restored along the Lake edge, and invasive aquatic reeds will be removed. For the first time since the 1960s, visitors will be able to enjoy breathtaking views.

The $15 million Leon Levy Foundation grant to The New York Botanical Garden will go toward the creation of a new Native Plant Garden on 3.5 acres in the Botanical Garden, adjacent to the native Forest and the Rock Garden. It will serve as a center for the study and display of plants native to the northeastern United States. This garden will be one of the first projects in the Botanical Garden’s Master Plan, being developed by the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm Olin Partnership, to restore the “Heart of the Garden” and address other broad challenges and opportunities throughout the historic landscape. Through the Department of Cultural Affairs, the City has already committed more than $35 million towards the Master Plan, and over the next several years, the Botanical Garden will invest more than $100 million in private funding for restoration and preservation projects that will save the Garden’s landscapes, redesign gardens, and restore collections. This gift for the Native Plant Garden is a major part of that effort.


“‘How do you know that the sky is falling, Chicken Little?’
‘I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and a bit of it fell on my head.’”

The Sky is Falling
A Bulrovian Fairy Tale

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