The Pier 55 floating park has been a work in progress for sometime now, but plans for constructing the new pier on the Hudson River continue to be slowed down by a barrage of lawsuits against the park’s development. After media developer Douglas Durst recently revealed that he has been financing the lawsuits brought against the park, Mayor Bill de Blasio has reportedly contacted Durst directly in an attempt to bring an end to the lawsuits so the park’s development can move forward.
Plans for Pier 55
Designed by Thomas Heatherwick and financed by media mogul Barry Diller, plans for the Pier 55 floating park call for investing $250 million into project. Plans call for constructing winding paths that pass through a variety of ever-changing plants along with a 700-seat amphitheater that will be rented out for cultural events. These plans got off to a good start, with the plan receiving approval from the local community board without any problems and the developers striking a 20-year lease deal with the Hudson River Park Trust.
Problems Plague Pier 55 Development
While plans for Pier 55 seemed to get off on a good start, it wasn’t long before problems began to develop. First, plans all for demolishing the nearby and crumbling Pier 54. Three hundred concrete columns also need to be drilled into the riverbed of Pier 55, which would just 186 feet over the river. This type of construction required obtaining a full environmental impact statement to examine how the pier would impact a part of the river that is designated as an estuarine sanctuary. This, too, required the approval from the Army Corp of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Since plans were unveiled for the park in December 2014, it has been plagued by lawsuits, some related to environmental concerns and others related to different issues. In June 2015, the City Club sued over concerns related to its environmental impact. The suit was thrown out in April 2016 and the park had to gain approval from the Army Corp of Engineers, which it acquired by the end of the month. The latest lawsuit was brought by the City Club in late March. This lawsuit halted construction until June, at which time the Hudson River Park Trust received a permit modification approval from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to move forward with construction.
Bitter Blood Slows Development
While it is not completely clear why Durst has taken steps to prevent the construction of Pier 55, it is known that he was once involved with the Friends of Hudson River Park. The organization is now working with Diller to move forward with the new park. A donor and former chairman of the Friends of Hudson River Park, Durst was removed from the position in 2011 when former NYCEDC exec Madelyn Wils was appointed as chief executive of the trust.
The mayor, who has been a vocal supporter of the park, made a personal call to Durst in an effort to get him to stop providing financial support to the lawsuits filed against the park. Hopefully, this will bring an end to the lawsuits so the community can finally have the opportunity to enjoy this new public space.