Rest in peace, billionaire’s dream of creating an artificial island park on the West Side of Manhattan. The plan to build Pier55, a 2.7-acre, Thomas Heatherwick–designed floating park and performance space has been scrapped. The project’s primary patron, IAC chair and philanthropist Barry Diller has withdrawn his support after ongoing legal battles stymied its construction and drove the project costs above $250 million.
“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 the New York Times. He reportedly made the decision during recent settlement negotiations between the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversaw the project, and the City Club of New York, the small civic group — reportedly bankrolled by another New York mogul, real-estate executive Douglas Durst — that was fighting the project, claiming it lacked a proper environmental review.
Diller’s abrupt exit almost certainly kills the project, as he and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg, pledged $130 million to the space, with the city and state footing the rest of the bill. (The original cost was an estimated $170 million, but has since nearly doubled.)
Diller’s decision marks a rather anticlimactic end to the almost three-year saga of Pier55, also dubbed “Diller Island.” The park, proposed in 2014, was to be built off the decrepit Pier 54 near 14th Street, about 186 feet into the Hudson River. But it quickly stalled because of the ongoing litigation. The only visible sign of progress was the installation last summer of at least nine of the planned 550 pylons.
Richard Emery, a lawyer for the City Club, said in a statement they were “surprised” by the news. “We thought the negotiations were proceeding to a resolution,” he explained. “Diller’s decision respects the legislature’s intent to protect the Hudson as an estuary rather than an entertainment venue.”
The president of the Hudson River Park Trust, Madelyn Wils, said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened by this news — not simply because this would’ve been one of the world’s greatest piers, but because this was a project the community so resoundingly wanted, and that millions would one day enjoy.” She added that the park was “thwarted by a handful of people who decided they knew better.”
This post has been updated.