WSJ: Alan Fishman Donates $1 Million to Brooklyn Community Foundation

With a $1 million gift to the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Alan Fishman is hoping to set an example for others living in the borough.

He believes there are plenty of Brooklyn residents who love the community and want to contribute to causes close at hand, but just don't know how best to do so. Linking generous people to worthy groups is a "pivotal" role of the borough's community foundation, said Mr. Fishman, as is being the central repository for philanthropy services.

Alan Fishman

"Everyone knows the narrative about the city," said Mr. Fishman. "Regardless of your politics, you know that there's a job to do to make this thing work a bit better for everybody."

Mr. Fishman, 67 years old, is a third-generation Brooklyn native from Crown Heights. That puts him in the category of "Old Brooklyn," but not exactly "Mayflower Brooklyn," he joked.

He is the co-founder and chairman of the Bethesda, Md.-based Beech Street Capital, a mortgage-banking company, and chairman of Ladder Capital, a New York-based commercial real-estate finance company. For a short time in 2008, he served as the last chief executive of Washington Mutual Bank. He also led Sovereign Bank, which purchased Independence Community Bank.

In 2006, Mr. Fishman became chairman of a private foundation of Independence Community Bank. When that foundation spun out of the bank in 2009 and became the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Mr. Fishman continued to helm the newly formed group. He also serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Brooklyn is the "center" of civic and philanthropic activities for Mr. Fishman and his wife, Judith. During the time he has worked with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and its predecessor, Mr. Fishman has actively recruited people to join him in supporting the charities and projects of the borough. Current residents—people who have made the choice to live, work and raise families in Brooklyn—are logical, enthusiastic donors.

But "old Brooklynites" have proven a harder sell over the years, said Mr. Fishman. The thinking among nonprofit groups has always been to reach out to former residents to raise money, but Mr. Fishman feels that the strategy was a waste of time until recently. Old residents "wanted to get away from Brooklyn, they didn't want to be recognized as being of Brooklyn," he said.

"I think that's changed completely now," said Mr. Fishman.

The improvements that have occurred in the community, the image of the community has changed so much, said Mr. Fishman.

Those old Brooklynites "are now proud to give back to Brooklyn and are anxious to give back to Brooklyn."