Record $20 Million Gift to Help Finish the High Line Park

October 27th, 2011

By Lisa W. Foderaro for The New York Times — Many visitors to the High Line, the popular park that wends above street level on the West Side of Manhattan, stop at its northern terminus and peer wistfully through a chain-link fence at the as-yet unreclaimed half-mile segment to the north. Until this week, the nonprofit conservancy that operates the High Line still needed to raise $85 million to finish the park and maintain it.

On Wednesday night, the conservancy took a major step toward that goal when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a $20 million gift to the High Line from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation.

The gift, which will help build up the park’s endowment and pay for the design of the last section, is the single largest donation ever made to a New York City park, according to city officials.

It follows two previous donations totaling $15 million to the High Line from Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and Expedia, and his wife, the designer Diane von Furstenberg.

“It’s not surprising that Barry and Diane — visionaries that they are — got in early on the High Line project,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement. “But even better, they are seeing it through. Their generosity is leading the way for the High Line to become a New York icon that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The High Line is an unusual public-private partnership. The city paid most of the construction costs of the first two sections (the second opened earlier this year), which together run from Gansevoort to 30th Streets.

But Friends of the High Line, the conservancy that rallied to save the railway from demolition and raised money for its transformation into a park, assumed full responsibility for the cost of the operations from the start.

With three million annual visitors, 10 times what the founders of the conservancy initially envisioned, wear and tear, as well as educational programming, is a constant challenge for the 60-member staff.

“If you ask Josh or me what keeps us up at night, it’s not next year or whether we complete it — we know it will get done,” said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line along with Joshua David. “It’s the maintenance, and this gives us security. Having an endowment gives us another revenue stream to fall back on in hard times.”

Annual operating costs for the park come to $3 million.

But perhaps just as important is the gift’s ability to propel Friends of the High Line toward the finish line: the railway’s endpoint at 34th Street. Now the curvaceous teak benches and ornamental grasses that make up the park’s northern landscaping stop abruptly at that chain-link fence.

On the other side is a jumble of weeds, rocks and old ladders. The future section, which hugs the West Side Railyards, runs west to 12th Avenue and then continues north to 34th Street.

That segment is owned by CSX Transportation, which is now in negotiations with city officials, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other interested parties, on an agreement that would allow for public access. In 2005, CSX donated the portion of the High Line south of 30th Street to the city.

Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the talks dealt with a “very complicated site.” But he added that “everyone wants for the city to eventually” obtain the site for the High Line park.

Mr. David and Mr. Hammond estimate that the final half-mile stretch will cost up to $75 million to build, about the same as each of the first two half-mile sections. Given the constraints on the city’s budget, private sources will have to cover the initial capital expense, they said. Before the new gift, Friends of the High Line had raised about $65 million toward its $150 million fund-raising goal.

In a statement, Mr. Diller took the long view. “In a hundred years, people will be amazed that this park was ever built, and during all that time it will have given pleasure to such great numbers of people,” he said. “I’m glad that our family is able to pay a small role in making the High Line a reality.”

In a city of deep-pocketed philanthropists, the donation from Mr. Diller and Ms. von Furstenberg turned heads, not least because it went to a park rather than a cultural or educational institution. Previously, the largest private gift to a park was $17 million from the philanthropist Richard Gilder in 1993 to Central Park.

Friends of the High Line hopes that the $20 million donation will inspire additional giving.

That happened once before. After the Museum of Modern Art mounted a small exhibition of designs for the park in 2005, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation made its first gift of $5 million, generating interest in the project. Then came a gift of $10 million from the foundation in 2009. Earlier this year, Tiffany and Company Foundation gave a $5 million challenge grant.

The return on those investments has been substantial; the first two sections of the High Line have generated more than $2 billion in planned or new development, city officials said. The park has also become a major tourist attraction, drawing a quarter of its visitors from outside the United States.

Gazing at the unfinished segment, Martin Oeggerli, 37, a photographer visiting from Switzerland, said he would like the park to keep going. “It would go straight to the Hudson and give you a great view,” he said.

Last week, when Mr. Diller told Friends of the High Line of the gift over the phone, the conference room erupted. “A large number of people on our staff burst into tears,” Mr. Hammond said.

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For additional coverage of the pledge, please click on the link below:

http://thehighline.org/news/2011/10/28/diller-von-furstenberg-family-foundation-makes-historic-20m-commitment

 

American Tall Ship Institute Receives Support from Alex von Furstenberg

April 25th, 2011

Alex von Furstenberg Lends Support to ATSI Youth Programming

Alexander von Furstenberg and The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation have granted a $10,000 endowment to the American Tall Ship Institute, an educational non-profit based in Oxnard, California targeted at youth ages 9-18.

Founded in 2007 by Captain Stephen Taylor, the mission of ATSI is to “encourage positive youth and community development through environmentally aware, curriculum-based, ocean-centered programs.”  Using ships as teaching tools to connect youth to the environment, ATSI partners with local youth service organizations, school districts and gang intervention programs.

Alex von Furstenberg has long supported educational and environmental programming in Southern California.  Alex recently pledged multi-year support to environmental organization Heal The Bay, and has sponsored day camps organized by Surfer’s Healing, another local non-profit that fuses a passion for the ocean with children’s causes. 

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For more on the American Tall Ship Institute, please visit:

http://americantallship.org/mission.html

Alex von Furstenberg Supports Surfers Healing Day Camps

February 4th, 2011

Contribution Underwrites Surfing Camps for Children Living with Autism

Alexander von Furstenberg has pledged $10,000 to Surfers Healing, a California-based non-profit founded “to enrich the lives of people living with autism by exposing them to the unique experience of surfing.”

Surfers Healing has been hosting surfing day camps for autistic children and their families since 2000.   Backed by donations and staffed by volunteers, camps are provided free of charge to children, with private contributions ensuring that the participants are adequately supplied with wetsuits, surfboards, rash guards, life vests and other required equipment.  The volunteer staff, most with a decade of experience, help to ensure a safe and comfortable day for children new to the ocean.

“It is my pleasure to support this cause” said Alex von Furstenberg, an avid kite-surfer and Malibu resident.  “I’m very impressed with Surfers Healing’s unique initiative, and subscribe to their belief that the ocean can serve as a site of respite and empowerment.”

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Alexander von Furstenberg is the Director and Secretary of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, which has supported children’s causes and environmental programming since 1999.  Alex von Furstenberg and The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation recently announced a partnership with non-profit organization Heal The Bay to sponsor Malibu’s only comprehensive beach water quality program, the Beach Report Card. 

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For more on Surfer’s Healing, please visit:

http://surfershealing.org/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Surfers-Healing/163567001547#!/pages/Surfers-Healing/163567001547

Alex von Furstenberg Pledges Supports to Beverly Hills Police Officers Association

October 22nd, 2010

Support will Provide Police Officers with Ongoing Medical Benefits

 Alexander von Furstenberg has pledged $25,000 in support of the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association’s 22nd Annual Black & White Ball, which will be held on November 8th, 2010 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the BHPOA’s Medical Trust Fund, which provides ongoing benefits for retired officers and their families, and financial support to active personnel during times of catastrophic injury or illness. 

“I am proud to contribute to this very worthy cause” said Alex von Furstenberg. “These officers have dedicated their lives to improving and protecting our community and are deserving of our continued support.”

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 Alexander von Furstenberg is the Director and Secretary of The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, which has supported BHPOA programs since 2005. 

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For more on the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association, please visit: http://bhpoaonline.org/