Helmsley estate: $136M to charity, $1M to dogs

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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 Helmsley's name at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The estate for 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 at public reports that 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.

But a surrogate court judge ruled in February that trustees for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust had sole authority to decide which charities benefit from her estate.

"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 at a Mitchell, S.D., hospital and hospital pharmacy funding in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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

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

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