On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, the Central Park Conservancy celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. The festive evening included cocktails, dinner, and dancing to commemorate the transformation, restoration, and exemplary management of Central Park. The well-attended event raised $2.8M in support of the Conservancy’s ongoing work to keep Central Park an irreplaceable reprieve and retreat in New York City for generations to come. The celebration highlighted the Conservancy’s capstone project to re-envision the Lasker rink and pool at the Harlem Meer.
The project features a new facility that will expand access to year-round recreation for the surrounding community and will be constructed as part of a full redevelopment to the site including repairing and revegetating the landscape, recreating the stream course that historically flowed into the Meer, and establishing a wetland edge and boardwalk along the shoreline adjacent to the new facility. The event, supported by City National Bank, also honored Judy & Russ Carson, Kate & Andrew Davis, Alice Gottesman & Family, and Kitty Patterson & Tom Kempner for their distinctive contributions to the project and the Central Park Conservancy’s mission.
“40 years of expertise, vision, passion, and generosity have gone into making Central Park the beautiful and thriving public space that it is today,” said Betsy Smith, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “I am deeply grateful to our founders, staff, volunteers, and visitors, and I look forward to building on our work to ensure that this vital urban park is accessible to all for years to come.”
Event co-chairs Kelly & Joe Coffey, Gillian & Sylvester Miniter, Amelia & Adebayo Ogunlesi, Yesim & Dusty Philip were joined by President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy Betsy Smith, Chairman of the Board Tom Kempner, Conservancy trustees, and donors. Guests included Judy Hart Angelo, Michael Bloomberg & Diana Taylor, Rick Cotton, Laurie & Peter Grauer, Patti Harris, Anne & Bill Harrison, Tracey & Craig Huff, Sharon & Bill Jacob, Alexia Leuschen, Carol Sutton Lewis, Susan Magrino, Peter Marino, Hilary Geary Ross & Wilbur Ross, Fiona & Eric Rudin, Didi & Oscar Schafer, Christine & Stephen Schwarzman, Laureen Seeger, Gillian & Robert Steele, Martha Stewart, Stephanie & Fred Schuman, and Suzy Welch.
Guests celebrated and danced the night away to music performed by the Marcus Reid Band with event decor by David Stark and catering from Abigail Kirsch.
The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park and is responsible for raising the Park’s annual operating budget. The Conservancy’s staff of more than 300 is responsible for all aspects of the Park’s stewardship, from day-to-day maintenance and operations to continued restoration and rebuilding projects. Additionally, the Conservancy operates the Park’s visitor centers, provides public programs, and serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. For more information, please visit centralparknyc.org.
The following night at the Central Park Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hosted its annual gala honoring businessman and philanthropist David Bonderman for his dedication to conservation causes. His philanthropic giving to WCS and others has been critical to reducing poaching and wildlife trafficking in Africa. His major support for predominantly anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts now extends across 22 African countries. Mr. Bonderman is a long-time supporter of conservation causes and serves on the boards of the American Himalayan Foundation, The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, and the Wyss Foundation. He also funds The Wildcat Foundation.
WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper said, “David’s outstanding contributions to WCS and to so many other organizations reflect his place as one of the most preeminent philanthropists in the field of conservation.”
The WCS Gala took place outside at the spectacular Central Park Zoo and celebrated WCS’s impact on the planet’s most ecologically important wild places and the extraordinary species that call them home. As the world’s premier wildlife conservation organization, WCS has a long record of achieving innovative, impactful results through science, conservation action, education, and by inspiring people to value nature. WCS has safeguarded many of the planet’s most important wilderness areas over the past 126 years, helping to create hundreds of protected areas on land and sea. Additionally, WCS’s network of urban wildlife parks is the largest in the world, with four zoos and an aquarium in New York City connecting over 4 million visitors a year to nature and science, creating a powerful force for conservation in New York and beyond.
In remarks at the event, Samper said: “We come together tonight at a critical moment for wildlife conservation and our planet with multiple important international gatherings taking place aimed at tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Mending our broken relationship with nature is the defining challenge of our lifetime. The collapse of biodiversity, the climate crisis, and the pandemic have made this abundantly clear. We must find a carbon-neutral, nature-positive path that balances human well-being along with the needs of wildlife and wild places. And we can find that balance.”
All proceeds of the gala are dedicated to advancing WCS’s mission to save wildlife and wild places. The co-chairs of the event were: Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie, Jill and Gordon Dyal, Christopher J. Elliman, Laura and Peter Grauer, Diane and Andreas Halvorsen, Tony and Amie James, Amelia and Bayo Ogunlesi, Mary and Howdy Phipps, Alejandro and Charlotte Santo Domingo, Kitty and Stephen Sherrill, Loretta and Chris Stadler, Allison and Leonard Stern, Andrew and Ann Tisch, and Ward and Priscilla Woods. The décor for the evening was by Renny & Reed Floral and Event Design; and the catering was by Peter Callahan.
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve its mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org.
Photographs by Jillian Nelson/AnnieWatt.com (WCS); Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com & Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images (CPC).