Last we heard about Pier55–the 2.4-acre futuristic floating park and performance space proposed by billionaire media mogul Barry Diller that would jut 186 feet into the Hudson at 13th Street–Community Board 2 had mixed feelings about the project. They liked Thomas Heatherwick’s design, but cited concern over the lack of transparency from Diller and the Hudson River Park Trust.
Despite these feelings, though, we’ve learned today from the Times that the Trust approved a lease agreement with Pier 55 Inc., a nonprofit group controlled by Diller, to help develop the $130 million public space. Diller has already pledged $113 million toward the project through the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation (his wife is fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg). So, what’s next?
In addition to concerns over transparency, environmentalists, including the group Riverkeeper, have called for a full environmental review of the project, as it would be constructed in an undisturbed area of the river that’s a designated estuarine sanctuary. Concerns include storm water runoff, damage to the river sediment after driving in hundreds of new piles, and the impact from a new shady area. Instead of submitting a full environmental impact statement, the Trust completed an environmental assessment form, which has fewer requirements. Before the park can break ground in 2016 as scheduled, both the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation must sign off on the new pier.
The other set of concerns comes from financial issues. In recent years, the Hudson River Park Trust has had financial setbacks, including those arising from Pier 40 at Houston Street. It’s become so deteriorated that it now requires $100 million in repairs, but with no luck finding a development proposal, the Trust is now looking to fund repairs through the sale of development rights. Though Diller’s support will fund the park for 20 years and a possible additional ten, there is no set financial plan following that time. Madelyn Wils, President of the Trust, said she felt confident that “all the protections we need to make sure the project is financed” were in place.
All renderings via Heatherwick Studio
Neighborhoods : Meatpacking District