Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NEW YORK | Trustees of real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s estate say they are giving $136 million to charity - with just $1 million going to the dogs.

Mrs. Helmsley’s estate announced 53 charitable grants Tuesday, the bulk of which went to New York City hospitals and medical research. The largest grant, $40 million, went to a digestive diseases center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, while $35 million went to start two research facilities in Mrs. Helmsley’s name at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The estate for Mrs. Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, divided $1 million equally to 10 animal-rights charities, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and several groups that train guide dogs for the blind.

Animal-rights groups rejoiced last year about public reports that Mrs. Helmsley specified in her will that her multibillion-dollar hotel and real estate empire should go entirely to dog-releated charities. The hotel queen’s will had named her dog, Trouble, as a beneficiary.

A surrogate court judge ruled in February, however, that trustees for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust had sole authority to decide which charities benefit from their estate. Her husband is also deceased.

“Throughout their lives, the Helmsleys were committed to helping others through the innovations of medical research of responding to those in need during critical times and in other areas,” the trustees said in a statement Tuesday. “We now have the privilege of continuing their good works by providing support where it will make a difference.”

The grants include $25 million to create a Helmsley Center for Electrophysiology - the study of electrical properties of cells and tissues - at Mount Sinai, and $10 million for the Helmsley Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center.

More than $15 million was donated to health care systems in South Dakota, including advanced cancer treatment funding.

The foundation gave several $200,000 donations to city homeless and poverty programs such as Citymeals-on-Wheels and the Bowery Mission.

Mrs. Helmsley’s fortune, with much of the holdings in real estate, had been estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion after her death.

Her estate still is attempting to sell her 23,000-square-foot estate in Greenwich, Conn. The asking price of the 40-acre property, known as Dunnellenn Hall, recently was slashed to $75 million, the Greenwich Time reported Tuesday.

The estate was priced at $125 million when it went on the market in early 2008, and the price was cut to $95 million last fall. The mansion was built as a wedding gift by a father for his daughter nearly a century ago. It had been home to an industrialist, a shipping magnate, a New York Yankees owner as well as Mrs. Helmsley and her husband.

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