Rendering via Pier55, Inc
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer appointed Douglas Durst on Friday to the board of the Hudson River Park Trust, a group he has frequently criticized over their proposed Pier55 project. Durst admitted last year to funding a lawsuit to stop the trust’s plan for an off-shore park on the Hudson River. While billionaire businessman Barry Diller, who is funding the $250 million project, halted construction in September, the plan was restored a month later, with pressure and financial help from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Brewer told Crain’s that Durst didn’t volunteer, she asked him to join the board. “I think he loves the park,” she said.
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Photo: Pier 55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio.
In September, 6sqft reported that billionaire IAC Chairman Barry Diller was giving up on the $250 million project that promised to bring a futuristic offshore park and cultural destination to the Hudson River’s dilapidated Pier 54. Since its beginnings in 2014, the seemingly ill-fated project, known as Pier 55 (or sometimes “Diller Park”), was beleaguered by opposing factions–eventually revealed to be funded by prominent New York real estate developer Douglas Durst–that blocked its progress at every turn. Diller, who had imagined the project as a new Manhattan waterfront icon to rival the nearby High Line, had had enough. In a cautiously optimistic turnaround, it was announced Wednesday that the media mogul–now backed by his recent legal foes and Durst in addition to Governor Andrew Cuomo–was renewing his commitment to move ahead with the project, according to Crain’s. Diller said in a statement, “I have had countless people tell me how much they were looking forward to having this new pier, and how unfortunate were the circumstances of its cancellation.”
So what happened?
, Thu, September 14, 2017
Photo: Pier 55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio.
Barry Diller, the billionaire chairman of IAC, announced he’s killing the $250 million project that promised to bring a futuristic offshore park and cultural site to the Hudson River’s dilapidated Pier 54. 6sqft previously covered the unfolding saga of the ill-fated project, known as Pier 55 (or sometimes as “Diller Park”), as opposing factions continually blocked its progress and were eventually revealed to be funded by prominent New York real estate developer Douglas Durst. According to the New York Times, Diller said Wednesday that his commitment to build the undulating pier would be coming to an end—an inglorious one for a bold plan that some, and certainly Diller himself, saw as a new Manhattan waterfront icon to rival the nearby High Line.
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Photo via Pier 55 Inc.
6sqft reported in March on the latest developments in the on-again-off-again status of the $200 million Barry Diller-funded offshore park/performing arts center proposed for Pier 55 on the Hudson River; though construction began last November, opponents of the project, led by the City Club of New York, gained a victory in the form of a ruling by Judge Lorna G. Schofield that agreed with group’s claim that the Army Corps of Engineers had not conducted a sufficient environmental review on how the 2.4-acre park would affect fish and wildlife. The judge ordered that work stop at the site and called for a review of alternatives for building along Hudson River Park, a maritime sanctuary. Now, the New York Times reports that the Corps of Engineers, with the project’s sponsor, the Hudson River Park Trust, has filed an appeal of the decision.
And what about that Diller-Durst feud
If you thought the roller coaster that is Pier 55 was over since construction began in November, you may not want to step off the ride just yet. Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the City Club of New York, who took legal action against the $200 million Barry Diller-funded offshore park way back in the summer of 2015. As reported by the Times, Judge Lorna G. Schofield agreed with the group’s claim that the Army Corps of Engineers had not conducted a sufficient environmental review on how the 2.4-acre park would affect fish and wildlife. She ordered that work stop at the site and called for a review of alternatives for building along Hudson River Park, a maritime sanctuary.
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Despite the fact that the 535 concrete piles that will support the planned undulating base of the Pier 55 offshore park have already been erected, the Hudson River Park Trust is now looking towards a flatter design. The Architect’s Newspaper obtained a copy of a permit modification request that the group submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers that reduces the park’s overall size slightly from 2.7 to 2.4 acres and replaces many of the hollow pentagonal pots that would have sat on top of the columns with “a flat structural base sandwiches between the piles and the landscaping.”
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Current view of Pier55 site, via 6sqft
Now that the Barry Diller-funded Pier 55 offshore park can proceed freely, the Wall Street Journal took a look at how construction is progressing on the $200 million project. Currently, the 535 concrete columns, each three feet wide and ranging from 70 to 200 feet long, that will support the 2.75-acre park have been erected, poking out of the Hudson River amidst the historic wooden piles that once supported Pier 54, where the Titanic was supposed to dock (these will remain to sustain marine life development). On top of them will be pots, “hollow pentagonal forms” that weigh as much as 60 tons and will be “linked with concrete to create a rectangular platform of about 104,000 square feet.”
More new details this way
After nearly a year and a half of yo-yo-ing back and forth between stop work orders and lawsuits, the Barry Diller-funded Pier 55 park can finally move ahead freely. The New York Law Journal reports that yesterday the state Court of Appeals denied the City Club of New York’s appeal of September’s ruling in favor of Pier 55 and the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) that said construction could continue on the 2.75-acre offshore park, dismissing the opponents’ claims that the park failed to go through adequate environmental impact evaluations and violated the public trust doctrine by planning to host private events.
What this means for Pier 55
All systems are go for the Barry Diller-funded Pier55 park, as a State Appellate court ruled today that work can continue on the 2.75-acre project sited along the Hudson River. As 6sqft previously reported, the main opponent of the park—better known as The City Club of New York—has been aiming to thwart the project under the claim that those involved, namely the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) and Pier55 Inc. (the nonprofit manager established by Diller), failed to go through adequate environmental impact evaluations. City Club served the pair with a lawsuit that eventually led to a stop work order in June. However, an appeals court lifted the stop work order shortly after, and by the end of August, the first nine piles were installed.
Today’s ruling upholds a lower court’s decision that HRPT and Pier55 Inc. did in fact do a proper environmental review, and moreover, that HRPT was not required to put out an RFP to solicit other ideas for the site from other developers—another major point of contention. The court also decided that the park reserves the right to use the space for non-public events like ticketed concerts, although it is noted that “the lease requires that 51 percent of the performances be free or low-cost.”
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As of late last month, summer construction work on the Barry Diller-funded Pier 55 was complete, with the first nine piles propping up the offshore park having been installed. It seemed as though all systems were a go at the $130 million futuristic park, but yesterday 6sqft reported that The City Club of New York, the civic group who was behind an earlier lawsuit and stop work order, may have a backer in none other than Douglas Durst.
And today the Wall Street Journal shares that opponents had their first day in front a panel of state appellate-court judges to express environmental concerns and frustrations that the initial planning between billionaire Diller and the Hudson River Park Trust was done behind closed doors. What are your thoughts on the issue?
More details on the hearing, and tell us if you’re in favor of Pier 55 moving ahead