Barry Diller Pledges $130M for Futuristic Offshore Park on the West Side

November 17, 2014

Floating space in New York’s waterways is not a new concept. Take the +Pool, for example, the public pool proposed for the East River that was recently supported by Kanye West. But a new offshore park proposed for the Hudson River off 14th Street seems exceedingly ambitious, as it would cost $170 million, be located 186 feet off land, and contain wooded nooks and three performance venues including an amphitheater.

Barry Diller, sponsor-to-be of this ambitious plan, gives the project a much more realistic outlook. The billionaire chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, former head of Paramount Pictures and Fox–and husband to Diane von Furstenberg–was the single largest donor to the High Line. He’s pledged $130 million from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to make the 2.7-acre park a realty, as well as agreed to run the outdoor space and cover operating expenses for 20 years. He and his wife have starchitect-designed offices in the Meatpacking District and are clearly becoming king and queen of the neighborhood.

Pier 55, Hudson River Park Trust, Barry Diller

The additional $39.5 million needed to fund the park would come from the city, state and Hudson River Park Trust. Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio support the project and will join Diller today in publicly announcing the plan. And though officials are talking as though the park will definitely begin construction in 2016 (since the funds to get it off the ground are already in place), it will need the approval of the Trust’s full board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The park would be known as Pier 55 and would replace the crumbling Pier 54 at 14th Street, the former departure point for the Lusitania and the planned arrival site of the Titanic (though the famous Cunard arch will be restored and will remain). After being approached over two years ago about the park idea by Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairwoman and Mayor Bloomberg’s girlfriend, Diller initiated a design competition, ultimately selecting British architect Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, famous for designing the Olympic cauldron for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Landscape architect Mathews Nielsen will also lend his hand. Some critics of the idea, including Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, are not happy about the secretive planning and how private funds will be used to construct a public park.

Pier 55, Hudson River Park Trust, Barry Diller

Pier 55, Hudson River Park Trust, Barry Diller

The winning design is a “parallelogram-shaped platform [that] would sit atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns that are to range in height from 70 feet above the water to 15 feet above, roughly the minimum required post-Hurricane Sandy,” according to the New York Times. In addition to being futuristic looking, the raised, undulating form would allow sunlight to enter below, important since this area of the river is a marine sanctuary and spawning ground for striped bass, and safeguard against storms. The largest performance space would hold 1,000 people in seats and another 2,500 on the lawn. There would also be an 800-seat amphitheater and small stage with 250 seats.

Oscar-winning movie producer Scott Rudin, theater director Stephen Daldry, and playwright George Wolfe would be the inaugural board members, who would help arrange the acts for the amphitheater. It’s being reported that most of the events will be free or low-cost.

What are your thoughts on this out-of-the-box idea? Let us know in the comments.

[Via New York Times]

Renderings via Pier55 Inc. and Heatherwick Studio

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  1. D

    great idea, great design. good to see those in the 1% stepping up and providing funds for projects that green the city and provide for a space open to all.