Mogul vs. mogul: Is Douglas Durst trying to stop Barry Diller’s offshore park?
Once again in the news is media mogul Barry Diller’s futuristic offshore cultural pier development at Pier 55 on the Hudson River. The proposed park project, known informally as Diller Park after its main backer, who is chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp and is married to fashion designer Diane Von Furstenburg, is helmed by the Hudson River Park Trust.
The New York Times reports that the project’s main opponent, a civic group called The City Club of New York, may have an equally powerful backer. According to Diller, there is a deep-pocketed “hidden hand” funding the legal actions against the park. In a recent interview, Diller said, “The backer of all this is one Douglas Durst.”
As 6sqft previously reported, opponents of the Barry Diller-funded park claimed the park hadn’t gone through adequate environmental impact evaluations. The aforementioned City Club brought forth a lawsuit asserting that,
Diller and the Hudson River Park Trust had failed to thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of the 2.7-acre park, claiming that it would wipeout local species such as the American eel and shortnose sturgeon. They also argued that the public space would be used for “non-park purposes like ticketed concerts.”
At the end of June, an appellate court issued an injunction for a stop work order for the pier until least September. The hearing is still set for this month, but an appeals court lifted the stop work order shortly after it was issued and work began again.
Real estate developer Durst, whose family owns a number of important Manhattan skyscrapers, was an avid supporter and onetime chairman of the fund-raising arm of the Hudson River Trust known as Friends of Hudson River Park.
Durst wouldn’t say publicly whether he’s financing the lawsuits against Pier 55, but has said, “I do not like the process or the project and I am in favor of the litigation.” Richard D. Emery, The City Club’s lawyer, has argued that in addition to failing to conduct adequate environmental reviews, the trust should have “sought other potential developers, rather than simply handing such a valuable site over to Mr. Diller.”
In 2011, when the Hudson River Trust appointed a new chief executive, Madelyn Wils, Friends of Hudson River Park was instructed to change its focus to wealthy donors rather than advocacy, and Mr. Durst and other board members were pushed out.
Mr. Diller believes–and there’s evidence that he’s right–that a combination of the above factors led Mr. Durst to harbor a grudge against the project and begin to fund legal action against it.
City Club filed its initial lawsuit last year in State Supreme Court. The suit was dismissed, but Mr. Emery obtained an expedited appeal and a temporary halt to construction, though as mentioned above, the court has allowed the trust to install piles for the pier before the appeal hearing this month.