Governor Kathy Hochul is preparing to launch a new office to encourage civic philanthropy among globe’s wealthiest individuals. The Office of Philanthropic Affairs and Development will manage highly targeted marketing campaigns that encourage billionaires to found, construct, and endow new non-governmental civic institutions like museums, performance halls, libraries, public spaces, botanic gardens, and parks.
Hochul believes that New York’s philanthropic community is “the most generous, aspirational, and inspired in all the world.” She hope that over the next decades, New York billionaires will leave intergenerational gifts to the city — in the mold of Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller — and she wants to make it easier for them to do so.
The new office will operate inside of the Executive Chamber and will report directly to the Governor, but will will be based at the Governor’s office in Manhattan. Inge Reichenbach, who has led wildly successful alumni affairs offices and capital campaigns at Cornell and Yale Universities, is thought to be the principle contender to lead that office.
Hochul intends to identify sites suitable to accommodate new institutions of high culture, where signature architecture would be most visible, and to market those sites to prospective patrons. As part of the plan, Hochul will acquire three blocks and five underutilized piers in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, adjacent to Dewitt Clinton Park. That space will be prepared to accommodate major civic gifts — like public art, sculpture fountains, and major performance venues — as they might arise over time. She is dubbing the public space ‘The Fountain District.’
Other than spending on site acquisitions, the construction of the district will be entirely paid for by philanthropic contributions over time, and those institutions will operate on endowment wealth.
As of 2020, 114 billionaires reside in New York State and 634 live in the United States.
“We are going to quietly acquire iconic sites around New York City, so when generous folks want to make their mark and leave their legacy here, we can help them do it in a spectacular way that inspires others to leave even more aspirational civic gifts,” a source close to the Governor explains. “Entire industries and creative ecosystems will be spawned by these new civic institutions.”
“Governor Hochul wants to encourage and celebrate giving to the arts, because Giovanni de’Medici started the Italian Renaissance. Madam C.J. Walker‘s wealth started the Harlem Renaissance. Imagine the renaissance we can start today,” the staffer says. “It takes inspired individuals, and that’s what this office hopes to do.”