The City’s Plan B for Barry Diller’s Pier 55 Floating Park Is Far Less Exciting

Posted On Mon, April 20, 2015 By

Posted On Mon, April 20, 2015 By In Landscape Architecture, Meatpacking District, Urban Design

In February, the futuristic Pier 55 floating park planned for the Meatpacking District moved forward with a lease deal between the Hudson River Park Trust and a nonprofit group controlled by Barry Diller, the billionaire media mogul who pledged $130 million back in November to fund the $151.8 million park. Diller is allocating the funds through the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation (his wife is fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg), but under the agreement he can pull his support if he feels renovations at neighboring piers aren’t up to par. And according to DNAinfo, the city’s backup plan in this event is quite underwhelming, completely scratching the floating island and creating a $30 million park similar to others along Hudson River Park.

Pier 55, Hudson River Park Trust, Barry Diller

The current plan for Pier 55 is a 2.4-acre futuristic floating park and performance space that would jut 186 feet into the Hudson at 13th Street. A parallelogram-shaped platform will sit atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns ranging in height from 70 to 15 feet above the water. Designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the park would replace the crumbling Pier 54 at 14th Street, 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). Not included in the $151.8 million price tag is a state-funded esplanade with a three-block pedestrian walkway and a 21,000-square-foot concrete deck to serve as a gateway to Pier 55.

But as DNAinfo reports, “The lease sets out expectations that two long-troubled points in the cash-strapped park — Pier 57, a dilapidated former garage, and Gansevoort Peninsula, a swath of unused land whose fate is tied to the construction of a waste transfer station — will be developed into parkland and a commercial space. Diller’s donation is also predicated on the construction of a publicly funded $22.5 million esplanade that will serve as an entrance to the island.” Furthermore, he can walk away “if the project goes over budget, if government intervention interferes with his plans for permitted events, or if the aesthetics of the theaters change from plans.”

Pier55- floating park

Though the city has pledged $17 million toward the park, DNAinfo learned, after reviewing a working draft of the contract between the city Parks Department and the Hudson River Park Trust, that a backup plan is in place in the event that Diller pulls out. The $17 million would remain for the site, but the overall cost of the project would drop down to $30 million, and the revised plan would be a 1.9-acre park built on existing land with stainless steel railings and some decorative planters as its main design points.

The Trust is confident that Diller will follow through with his pledge, especially since the city has already allocated $25 million for the work at Gansevoort Peninsula, which would build a waste transfer station at the tip of the pier and turn the rest of the landfill into a public park. This deal, however, requires the governor, mayor, and state lawmakers to sign a memorandum of understanding for construction to move ahead; after seven years it has yet to be signed. Similarly, plans for Pier 57 have lingered for six years.

Pier 55, Heatherwick Studio, Barry Diller, floating park

Previously, the local community board expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the planning stages of the project between Diller and the Trust, as well as the funding plan. Diller pledged the initial $130 million plus $25 million for future maintenance, but after that there is no set financial plan. Hudson River Park Trust spokesman James Yolles told DNAinfo, “We have no reason to believe the Pier 55 project won’t proceed. Good planning dictates that, as a contract contingency, the Trust and city consider the ‘what if’ scenario of no Pier 55 project.”

[Via DNAinfo]


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Neighborhoods : Meatpacking District



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