Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: Although based in Greenwich, Connecticut, the Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation is an active New York City grantmaker. 

FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Arts & Culture, NYC Community

IP TAKE: The foundation has picked up its grantmaking in recent years and has several key interests. 

PROFILE: SAC Capital founder and president Steven A. Cohen has a pot of money, over $10 billion, that matches or exceeds the endowment of many large foundations. That's why he's worth keeping an eye on, especially since the Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation appears to be ramping up its philanthropy in recent years, giving away more than $50 million in a recent year.

One question mark remains about how Steve Cohen's philanthropy will be affected by any legal issues that may still surface in connection with federal investigations into SAC Capital's improprieties. So far, though, all signs point to steadily increasing philanthropy by the Cohens.

The foundation is very active in New York City, particularly when it comes to human services and poverty, health, education and the arts. Cohen sits on the emeritus board at the Robin Hood Foundation (as do a couple of other hedge fund billionaires) which received more than $34 million from the Cohen foundation over a couple years. Other anti-poverty and human services outfits receiving recent money from the foundation include Citymeals on Wheels, Good Shepherd Services, and City Harvest.

Cohen and Alexandra are also deep into the arts. They're one of the most prominent art collecting couples in the nation and recently bought Picasso's "Le Reve"  from Steve Wynn for $155 million. The foundation has given more than $2.4 million to MoMA and nearly a million dollars to the MET. They've also given to the Brooklyn Museum. A Latin American and Caribbean art museum called Museo del Barrio, located just due north of the Museum Mile in East Harlem has received $50 million annually over the last few years. Alexandra is of Puerto Rican descent. (Across the country in Los Angeles, Cohen has also given his largest sums in art in recent years to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) where he sits on the board.)

The foundation is also very focused on education and health. While Cohen's biggest sums in education have gone to Brown University, the foundation has been a big funder of Achievement First, which received more than $5 million over a couple years. Well-known outfits like Harlem Children's Zone, the Greater New York Council Boy Scouts of America and Harlem RBI have also gotten money.

Alexandra, born in working class Washington Heights, credits her family for sending her to a Catholic school where she was able to get a quality education. She attended Mother Cabrini High School and graduated in 1982. The school has been a recipient of money over the years. However, the school has faced economic hardship and was forced to shut down this year. A new charter school is expected to be established in its place.

The Cohens have also supported St Joseph Catholic School and St. Elizabeth School, other Catholic schools in New York. Not too long ago, the Cohens made a $3 million gift to the Equity Project (TEP), public middle school that mainly serves low-income Latino students in Washington Heights. 

In addition, the Cohens have been strongly supportive of scholarship outfits such as Prep For Prep, College Summit, Justin T Dimino Scholarship Foundation and the Bradley Marc Ginsburg Scholarship Foundation Corp, to name a few. 

In health, the foundation appears deep into cancer and AIDS giving to Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The biggest grantmaking in this area, however, is to New York City's hospitals, particularly in pediatric care. The Long Island Jewish Medical and North Shore University Hospital network received $55 million to expand pediatric care and more than $10 million between over a couple years Contained within this hospital network is the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, which claims to be the largest provider of pediatric health services in New York. 

A newer area of interest for the foundation is Lyme disease. Efforts for the prevention, diagnosis, symptoms, long-term effects, and treatment of Lyme disease are considered, and this is interesting because very few funders ever touch on this topic. 

Cohen's daughters were all born at Mt. Sinai where several different medical centers under the Mt. Sinai umbrella, including the Dubin Breast Center and the Children's IBD Center, have received sums of money from the foundation. New York Presbyterian has also been supported by the foundation. In 2011, a $50 million gift established the  Alexandra and Steven Cohen Pediatric Emergency Department at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Located on 166th Street, it's also in the same neighborhood, Washington Heights, where Alexandra was born and raised. What's more, at NYU Langone Medical Center, the foundation has established a new veterans’ mental health research center to study post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. 

The foundation has also given occasional gifts to Friends of the High Line, the Intrepid Museum and some environmental outfits such as Central Park Conservancy and the Fresh Air Fund. It's possible that the environment could become a priority of the foundation in the coming years as well. 

 PEOPLE:

  • Alexandra M. Cohen, President 
  • Jeanne Melino, Executive Director

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