RIP (via Pier55, Inc. / Heatherwick Studio)
Billionaire Barry Diller has abandoned his controversial proposal for a $250 million floating park/performance venue in the Hudson River near 14th Street.
According to the NY Times, Diller decided to kill his pet project during settlement negotiations with the Hudson River Park Trust and the City Club, a small good government group opposed to the project.
“Because of the huge escalating costs and the fact it would have been a continuing controversy over the next three years I decided it was no longer viable for us to proceed,” Diller told the paper.
The NY Times also quoted an email Diller sent to supporters to break the news. A “tiny group of people had used the legal system to essentially drive us crazy and drive us out,” he charged.
The plan for Pier 55, initially approved in February 2015, came from Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg. The extremely wealthy couple planned to kick in $113 million to install 300 columns in the Hudson, designed to support a suspended, 2.5 acre park. Additional costs would fall to taxpayers, with funding for maintaining the park expected to come from concert proceeds.
The City Club is reportedly funded by real estate magnate Douglas Durst, who was a supporter of the nonprofit Friends of Hudson River Park, which raises funds for the Hudson River Park Trust, until he was “pushed out,” the Times reports, in 2011. The City Club first sued to block Diller’s park in 2015, arguing that the Hudson River Park Trust failed to provide adequate time for public comment, engaged in a harried environmental review process for a project located in a protected estuary, and “violated the public trust doctrine by alienating public parkland to Pier55, Inc., a private entity.”
According to the suit, “Pier55, Inc. retains tremendous discretion over the use of the new structure, including the power to charge whatever they may want to charge for tickets to 49% of events held in the structures two event spaces.”
Hudson River Trust Madelyn Wils said in a statement that she is “deeply saddened” by this week’s news.
The park “was thwarted by a small handful of people who decided they knew better,” she added. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Diller-von Furstenberg family for their generosity and for dreaming big with us on the public’s behalf.”
The City Club was pleasantly shocked.
“We are totally surprised by this development,” attorney Richard Emery said in a statement. “We thought the negotiations were proceeding to a resolution. Diller’s decision respects the legislature’s intent to protect the Hudson as an estuary rather than an entertainment venue. In the end, all the Trust’s machinations and secret deals backfired as they were destined to do from the beginning.”