The Madison Square Park Conservancy, dedicated to keeping Madison Square Park a bright, beautiful, and lively public park, is one of New York's newest not-for-profit organizations. The Conservancy raises the funds that support lush and brilliant horticulture, park maintenance, and park security. The Conservancy also offers a variety of free cultural programs for park users of all ages.
Until very recently, historic Madison Square Park was neglected and crime-ridden. People walked around it instead of going inside. In the late 1990s, members of the community formed the Campaign for the New Madison Square Park, a model public-private partnership. The Campaign raised $6 million in public and private funds for the redesign and reconstruction of the park that was completed in the spring of 2001. A permanent park endowment fund was also assembled. Many recent articles in the press have credited the park renovation with fueling the resurgence of the Flatiron District.
In 2002, when the park restoration was complete, the partners in the project formed the Madison Square Park Conservancy, a board-governed non-profit dedicated to keeping the renovated park lush and lively. The maintenance and public programs now offered by the Madison Square Park Conservancy are part of our strategy for sustaining the restoration of the park by keeping it safe, green, clean and vibrant with cultural activities for all ages. Only the Conservancy's consistent, loving attention prevents the park from declining into its previous state of disrepair.
Over the last few years, the young Conservancy has been developing its board, funding base and program goals. Every year we now fund about 90% of the cost of park maintenance and 100% of programs. The cost is high—nearly $2 million a year. In addition to tending the park's luxuriant lawns and gardens, the Conservancy provides high-quality free cultural programs. Mad. Sq. Kids offers family programs on the park's Oval Lawn on Tuesday and Thursday mornings throughout the summer. Over 10,000 people participate annually. Mad. Sq. Music is our summer evening concert series. The Times dubbed the program "an eight-concert gem of a series." Madison Square Park has also earned a reputation as a presenter of contemporary art, beginning in fall 2000 with video artist Tony Oursler's The Influence Machine. Mad. Sq. Art officially launched in 2004 with three stunning steel-beam sculptures by Mark di Suvero. Two massive concrete sculptures by Sol LeWitt were exhibited in 2005 followed by Ursula von Rydingsvard's cedar sculptures and resin bonnet in 2006. For 2007 Mad Sq Art features the stainless sculptures Conjoined, Erratic and Defunct by artist Roxy Paine.
In June 2004, the Conservancy introduced its new "green" food kiosk, "Shake Shack," by renowned architect James Wines of SITE Environmental Design. The innovative design of the ivy-covered, zinc-clad structure echoes the angles of the Flatiron Building. Operated by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, the food kiosk's proceeds benefit Conservancy programs. The Shack has already transformed the south end of the park into a popular dining hub in keeping with the Conservancy's mission of continually expanding opportunities for visitors to the park.