Dick Gilder’s services to New York City were huge, from fathering the Central Park Conservancy to turning the then-moribund New-York Historical Society into a now-lively cultural treasure. In between, he was a key figure in making the Manhattan Institute a major player on the New York and national policy scenes.
A native Manhattanite who graduated Yale then dropped out of Yale Law, he went on to found the brokerage firm Gilder, Gagnon, Howe & Co. In 1974, he gave $17 million to begin what became the Conservancy, which proceeded to restore the park from decades of neglect to become the gem it is again today.
And he did so while reaching across the political spectrum, indeed enticing George Soros into his earliest charitable venture to help save Central Park.
He was also a key friend of the Museum of Natural History and Morgan Library, among other local institutions.
An energetic, principled cheerleader for free enterprise and free markets, he also helped found the Club for Growth political action committee to push those ideas.
His longtime “co-conspirator,” Lew Lehrman, notes: “Dick Gilder was a man to whom the word ‘aristos’ [meaning ‘best’] applies, for if America had an aristocracy, Dick Gilder would have embodied its highest values.”
Let’s hope New York City can continue to foster, and benefit from, such leadership.