(Bloomberg) -- It took tropical dancers to get the party started at the Hudson River Park gala. Suddenly, guests who’d spent an hour watching small bites of paella pass by were swarming around women in sparkly outfits accompanied by a drum corps.

Actually, what brought Claire Danes, Michael Novogratz and about a thousand others together Thursday night was their regular use of the park on four miles of the West Side of Manhattan. According to them, it’s a great place to jog, play mini-golf and bring the kids. Their loyalty is such they were willing to spend an evening in a catering hall (Pier Sixty) to raise $3.25 million to sustain it.

There was one exception: comedian Jay Leno confessed he doesn’t use parks much. “I have a pretty big yard,” he said. “By me not going to the park, that’s more room for someone else to enjoy." He was attending because “they asked me to come. You come down and tell a few jokes, and help raise money, it’s not a big sacrifice.”

The event was put on by Hudson River Park Friends, which provides philanthropic support, and the Hudson River Park Trust, which develops and maintains the publicly owned space. (The trust’s chair is Diana Taylor, the companion of Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.)

The groups have been working for about 20 years to turn what was once industrialized waterfront into a park with recreation amenities and commercial uses to pay for operations.

“It’s a grind," said Novogratz, founder of Galaxy Investment Partners and chair of the Friends group. “Something that you think is going to take two years takes eight. It takes a tremendous amount of tenacity."

The gala’s program highlighted one example of a commercial project in progress: RXR Realty’s redevelopment of Pier 57 into an office building for Google with a 2-acre park on the roof that will be open to the public.

“It’s not normal office space,” said Scott Rechler, RXR’s chief executive officer, noting the views and the historic features. “The pier used to have metal doors that would go down when the ships would pull up. We’ve taken those doors and made them windows.”

Sounds like the perfect place to host the park’s next gala.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Steven Crabill, Peter Eichenbaum

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