Mr. Bloomberg may also indirectly be challenging — or upstaging — his successor’s approach to culture. Mr. Bloomberg, who made support of the arts a cornerstone of his mayoralty, is concentrating millions of dollars of his fortune on a single large Manhattan cultural institution. Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to funnel more of the city’s arts budget to smaller groups in underserved parts of other boroughs and plans to address equity issues with the city’s first cultural plan, to be released by July 1.
In 2013, just before leaving office, Mr. Bloomberg’s administration made a public appropriation to the Shed — $50 million, which became $75 million — the city’s biggest cultural capital grant that year, and an unusually generous contribution to an arts group that had yet to hire staff members or set a construction budget.
Mr. Bloomberg’s personal and public support has catapulted the Shed ahead of other major cultural efforts. The eight-level building along the High Line, designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro in partnership with the Rockwell Group, is a stark contrast to the numerous undertakings that have been postponed (like the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s $600 million new wing for Modern and contemporary art); delayed (the New York Philharmonic’s $500 million renovation of David Geffen Hall) or protracted (the $240 million performing arts center at ground zero).
There has been speculation over the years about whether Mr. Bloomberg would lend his weight to the foundering arts center at the former World Trade Center site, which was included in the 2003 master plan but has been plagued by setbacks. Only last year did another billionaire finally step forward to jump-start fund-raising: Ronald O….