After a years-long legal battle with a small civic group, media mogul Barry Diller announced on Wednesday, September 13, that he will abandon his plan to build and operate a $250 million cultural pier and public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Diller had championed the idea to transform the defunct Pier 54 into Pier 55, a 2.7-acre island park with multiple performance venues, since the Hudson River Park Trust first approached him about the project in 2011.
“Because of the huge escalating costs and the fact it would have been a continuing controversy over the next three years I decided it was no longer viable for us to proceed,” Diller told Charles V. Bagli, who first reported the news in the New York Times. Pier 55 was originally supposed to cost only $35 million.
The controversy over the park escalated last year, when Diller revealed his suspicions that real estate developer Douglas Durst was secretly financing lawsuits filed by the City of New York, a group of New York residents who advocate for responsible urban planning. After being inactive for a number of years, the group successfully halted the project after making a legal complaint in 2015, which cited environmental concerns. However, in September of 2016, the New York State Appellate Division gave the project a green light. At the time, Diller said he was happy that the court ruled in favor of Pier 55, adding: “I’m sure we’ll continue to be tested.”
The Hudson River Park Trust and the City Club were trying to reach a settlement when Diller decided to nix the project. He said that “a tiny group of people had used the legal system to essentially drive us crazy and drive us out.”
City Club’s lawyer, Richard D. Emery, said he was “shocked” when Diller withdrew from the project, which was publicly supported by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Senator Chuck Schumer.
Shortly after the news about Diller Island was made public, it was discovered that the Whitney Museum of American Art also has plans for a Hudson River project. The institution hopes to build a permanent art installation by David Hammons on the Gansevoort Peninsula.