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$100M Brooke Astor Estate Settlement Reached

By Amy Zimmer | March 28, 2012 6:03pm
"Mrs. Vincent Astor, Seated," by Aaron Shikler, 1983, is one of the items that Sotheby's will auction off on Apr. 19, 2012 from Brooke Astor's estate.
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MANHATTAN — The five-year fight over the estate of Upper East Side doyenne Brooke Astor has been settled, paving the way for $100 million to start flowing to charities, the New York Attorney General's office announced Wednesday.

The settlement, approved by Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, puts an end to a bitter dispute involving Anthony Marshall, the son of the famed socialite and philanthropist who died in 2007 at the age of 105, who will see his inheritance cut in half to $14.5 million, the AG's office said.  Of the money going to charity, a new $30 million "Brooke Astor Fund" will go toward the New York City schools — a cause Astor championed throughout her life.

"Brooke Astor was at the center of New York philanthropy for nearly half a century," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who spearheaded the settlement, in a statement. "Her legendary generosity and charisma touched New Yorkers of all backgrounds."

Two of the largest beneficiaries of Astor's largesse are the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to the AG's office. The Met will get roughly $20 million from the estate, including $3 million for a painting by Childe Hassam called "Flags" that was supposed to go to the museum under various wills of Astor but was sold by her son in 2003. The painting's whereabouts are still unknown, Met officials said.

Millions will also go to Central and Prospect parks and New York City playgrounds, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Museum, Rockefeller University, the Morgan Library & Museum and New York University.

The settlement is based on a will Astor drew up on 2002, the attorney general's office said.

In a separate case, Astor's son was convicted in 2009 on multiple counts for stealing millions from this mother in her last years — and ultimately from charity, according to the AG's office.  His charges included conspiring to have Astor sign a 2004 amendment to her will that would have redirected millions to Marshall instead of the causes that Astor had earmarked.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office sought $12.3 million in restitution from Marshall — which the AG insisted on recouping.

Marshall appealed his conviction and sentence and has been stayed out of jail awaiting appeal.  

A call to his lawyer was not immediately returned.

The settlement is binding on him regardless of the outcome of Marshall's criminal case, the Attorney General's office said.

The money going to the NYPL will be used for reading and literacy programs for disadvantaged children in New York City and for the creation and maintenance of a room in the names of James Lenox and John Jacob Astor, according to the library system's president Anthony Marx.

"Brooke Astor's dedication, generosity and love for the Library as an active trustee for five decades transformed the Library in lasting ways," he said in a statement. "We are immensely grateful that her charitable intentions will be honored."