Central Park Conservancy

Central Park Conservancy

Central Park Conservancy

The Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980 by a group of dedicated civic and philanthropic leaders. They were determined to end Central Park`s dramatic decline in the 1970s and restore it to its former splendor as America`s first and foremost major urban public space, as envisioned by its 19th-century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Today, the Conservancy`s mission is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

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14 E. 60th St , New York , New York 10022 USA
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Business Type:
Non-governmental organization (NGO)
Industry Type:
Ecology and Nature Protection
Market Focus:
Globally (various continents)
Year Founded:

In 1998, the Conservancy and the City of New York signed a management agreement formalizing their then 18-year public-private partnership. The relationship was reaffirmed in 2006 when the agreement was renewed for an additional eight years. As the official manager of Central Park, the Conservancy is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of the Park. Presently, 90 percent of the Park's maintenance operations staff is employed by the Conservancy, which provides 85 percent of Central Park's $45.8 million annual Parkwide expense budget through its fundraising and investment revenue. The City, in addition to the annual fee to the Conservancy for the services it provides, funds lighting, maintenance of the Park drives and enforcement. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation retains policy control, has discretion over all user permits and events in the Park, and provides 10 percent of the field staff.

Since its founding, the Conservancy has overseen the investment of more than $600 million into Central Park, of which more than $470 million was raised from private sources — individuals, corporations and foundations — and more than $110 million was contributed by the City. The Conservancy has also prescribed and carried out a restoration management plan for the Park; managed the capital restoration of much of the Park's landscapes and facilities; created programs for volunteers and visitors; and set new standards of excellence in Park care. It has transformed Central Park into a model for urban parks worldwide. Helping other parks is a natural extension of the Conservancy's core mission. As such, it provides technical, management and fundraising advice to park systems around the country and world.

In 1986, the Conservancy launched its first fundraising campaign, Campaign for the Central Park Conservancy, which resulted in the restoration of Bethesda Terrace, Grand Army Plaza, Shakespeare Garden, Cedar Hill, and the southern part of the Park. In the early 1990s, capital projects focused on the northern end of the Park, culminating in the restoration of the Harlem Meer. Through the Wonder of New York Campaign in the mid-1990s, the Conservancy restored the west side landscapes, the Great Lawn and the North Meadow. In 2005, the Conservancy launched its third campaign, Campaign for Central Park, which is funding the restoration of landscapes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Harlem Meer around the 22-acre Lake. This campaign also provides long-term operating support.

Conservancy crews care for 250 acres of lawns, 24,000 trees, 150 acres of lakes and streams and 80 acres of woodlands; install hundreds of thousands of plantings annually, including bulbs, shrubs, flowers and trees; maintain 9,000 benches, 26 ballfields and 21 playgrounds; preserve 55 sculptures and monuments, as well as 36 bridges; remove graffiti within 24 hours; collect over 5 million pounds of trash a year; and provide horticultural support to City parks.

Conservancy public programs take advantage of the invaluable resources in Central Park, each year providing education, recreation and volunteer programs that serve children, teenagers, adults, families, community organizations and schools. In addition, the Conservancy provides visitor services at the six centers in the Park: Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Belvedere Castle, Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop, Chess & Checkers House and Tavern on the Green Visitor Center & Gift Shop, as well as at the North Meadow Recreation Center.

In 1998, the City of New York awarded the Central Park Conservancy a management contract that ensured the continuing maintenance, public programming, and capital restoration of Central Park. This contract confirmed the City's confidence in its nearly twenty-year partnership with the Conservancy. Both the Conservancy and the City of New York had invested nearly $350 million in Central Park operations, capital improvements, programs for visitors and volunteers, and endowment; it also had played an increasingly active role in Park management.

Under this agreement, the Conservancy receives an annual fee for services. The amount of the fee was determined by a formula that requires the Conservancy to raise and spend a specified minimum amount of private funds in the Park on an annual basis. The minimum Conservancy annual expenditure — which can include maintenance, programming and landscape improvements — is $5 million. The annual fee from the City depends on the Conservancy's expenditures in the Park and on the revenues generated by concessions in Central Park.

On April 27, 2006, the contract was renewed for another eight years. The new contract maintains the City's baseline allocation for the maintenance of the Park, but it lifts the cap on the amount of funding the Conservancy receives based on concession revenues generated in the Park. Under the previous contract, the Conservancy received an amount equal to 50% of concession revenues beyond the first $6 million generated in the Park, not to exceed $2 million. As more of the Park is restored and the cost of caring for it continues to grow, removing this cap will ensure that the Park will continue to benefit from increasing revenues that are directly related to its successful management.

Under the current eight-year agreement, the Conservancy will provide for the Park's day-to-day care. Specified in the contract are: landscape maintenance, replacement of dead trees and plants, mowing and reseeding/resodding, graffiti removal, cleaning playgrounds and comfort stations, clearing walkways; cleaning drains, sewers, and walkways; repairing benches, and maintaining and repairing structures and monuments. The Conservancy's responsibilities also include providing public programs to educate visitors about the Park's built and natural assets. Over the term of its partnership with the City, the Conservancy has expanded its activities to include all of the above activities; the management contract ratifies those activities.

The City of New York's Role in Central Park
The City of New York retains control and policy responsibility for Central Park. Capital improvements in the Park will continue to undergo public review at each stage of development with advice and consent from the Commissioner of Parks & Recreation. The City of New York/ Parks & Recreation has discretion over all events in the Park, and that will continue. At present, all revenues generated from concessions in the Park go into the City of New York's general fund, and that will continue.

The Conservancy's Qualifications
The Central Park Conservancy is uniquely qualified to manage Central Park. The Conservancy has a proven track record in restoring and managing the Park. With its partner, the City of New York, it brought the Park from its deteriorated state in the late 1970s to its present condition, with major landscapes and historic structures restored and well-maintained. The Conservancy is a model for public-private partnerships for parks throughout the country and has developed an excellent staff of park management professionals.

The Conservancy also has a track record in raising private funds to improve and preserve Central Park. Since its founding in 1980, the Conservancy has raised $350 million in private dollars, which, combined with the City's investment, turned Central Park into a living symbol of New York City's revitalization. Further, of every $1 the Conservancy raises, more than $.80 goes toward direct spending on horticulture, operations, maintenance, education, recreation, and public programs.

The Conservancy's Governance
The Conservancy is and will be accountable to the City of New York. The City of New York retains control and policy responsibility for Central Park. The Commissioner and officials of the City of New York/Parks & Recreation Department are involved in all Park planning and must approve all of the Conservancy's capital improvements in the Park. In addition, the Conservancy's 52-member Board of Trustees includes the Parks Commissioner and the Borough President of Manhattan (both ex officio), five Trustees appointed by the Mayor of the City of New York, and private sector members representing the City's business and philanthropic communities. See the 'Governance Overview' page for more information.

The Conservancy's Community Outreach and Public Review Process
Central Park will always be a public park. The Conservancy will continue to involve the public in the planning of any improvements to the Park. Starting with approval by the Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, the Conservancy's community outreach on capital projects is one of the most extensive and inclusive in the City. For any project, the Conservancy consults with Park users and surrounding communities to help develop its plans. The Conservancy then presents its plans to Community Boards, the Landmarks Preservation and Art Commissions for their review and approval. This process will continue unaltered.

Advisory boards comprised of community residents work with the Conservancy on a range of projects and issues. They include the following, and will be expanded as projects and programs create the need: The Upper Park Community Advisory Committee, the Woodlands Advisory Board, the Great Lawn Advisory Committee, the Central Park Recreation Roundtable, the North Meadow Recreation Center Advisory Committee, the Public Programs Community Advisory Committee, and the Frederick Douglass Circle Community Advisory Committee.

The mission of the Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage, and enhance Central Park, in partnership with the public.

The Conservancy aspires to build a great organization that sets the standard for and spreads the principles of world-class park management – emphasizing environmental excellence – to improve the quality of open space for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers.

The Conservancy is committed to sustaining this operating model to provide a legacy for future generations of Central Park users.


Central Park is a masterpiece of landscape architecture created to provide a scenic retreat from urban life for the enjoyment of all and, in so doing, to establish New York’s place among the great cities of the world. As the organization entrusted with the responsibility of caring for New York’s most important public space, our work is founded on the belief that citizen leadership and private philanthropy are key to ensuring that the Park and its essential purpose endure.

  • COMMITMENT - We value commitment to our mission, Central Park and the visitor experience.
  • EXCELLENCE - We value innovation and the highest quality results in every aspect of our work.
  • INTEGRITY - We value ethical conduct in our business practices.
  • ADAPTABILITY - We value adaptability in our response to change and challenges.
  • COMMUNICATION – We value clear, consistent communication, teamwork and an open dialogue both internally and with the public.
  • PUBLIC CONFIDENCE - We value the public and work to earn and maintain their confidence in our role as caretakers of Central Park.

Since its founding in 1980, the Conservancy has spent over $113 million (through 2006) to restore most of the major Park landscapes. A partial list of those restoration projects (there are over 90) and their completion dates includes:

  • The Dairy, Central Park's first visitor center (1981)
  • Conservatory Garden (1983)
  • Strawberry Fields (1985)
  • King Jagiello statue (1986)
  • Bethesda Terrace's four-year restoration (1988)
  • Grand Army Plaza (1990)
  • The Ravine (1992)
  • The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center and Harlem Meer (1993)
  • Cedar Hill (1995)
  • Maine Monument at Columbus Circle (1996)
  • Merchants' Gate at Columbus Circle and its surrounding landscapes (1997)
  • Great Lawn, Turtle Pond and adjacent landscapes (1997)
  • Reservoir running track (1998)
  • Construction of the 79th Street Yard (1999)
  • Restoration of the Reservoir landscapes (2000)
  • Installation of the irrigation system at Sheep Meadow (2001)
  • The Pond at 59th Street (2001)
  • The Pool at West 103rd Street (2003)
  • New Reservoir Fence (2003)
  • Park entrance at West 72nd Street (2004)
  • Heckscher Playground, ballfields and surrounding landscape (2006)
  • The Mall (2006)
  • West 110th Street Playground (2006)
  • The Minton tiles ceiling at Bethesda Terrace Arcade (2007)
  • The landscape south of the Mount & Conservatory Garden (2008)
  • Landscape East of the Mall (2008)
  • Bank Rock Bridge and Bay (2009)
  • West 100th Street Playground (2009)
  • Ancient Playground (2009)
  • Multi-year restoration of the Lake and its shoreline (ongoing through 2012)