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$130 Million 'Pier55' Park Looks Like Something Out of Avatar

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Billionaire media mogul Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, are donating $130 million to build a futuristic-looking 2.7 acre park in the Hudson River. If this is the first you're hearing about this, you're not alone—after Diller was approached by the Hudson River Park Trust two and a half years ago about helping to replace the crumbling Pier 54, they planned the park basically in secret, with Diller's commitment rising from $35 million to $130 million as the project became increasingly ambitious. The end result—an amoeba-like undulating structure sitting on 300 concrete pylons, ranging from 70 feet to 15 feet—is from British designer Thomas Heatherwick (known for designing the Olympic caldron for the Summer Olympics in London in 2012). [Edit: Mathews Nielsen is serving as Landscape Architect.] It will feature gardens, lawns, and an 800-seat amphitheater, and looks like a set for a fantasy movie (which is to say really, really cool—obviously, if we could all live in a fantasy movie, we would).

With the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation contributing the bulk of the funding and an additional $39.5 million coming from the city, the state and the Hudson River Park Trust, the project only needs approval from the trust's full board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to move forward with construction in 2016. After its completion, Diller would sign a lease to run the park and cover its operating expenses for 20 years. Oscar-winning movie producer Scott Rudin, theater director Stephen Daldry, and playwright George Wolfe would head up a board that would select acts to perform at the amphitheater.

The project is not without its detractors, however. Some politicians find it troubling that the entire thing was conceived and planned in secret. "It is deeply disturbing that the trust failed until now to disclose what it is doing," Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick told the Times. Others are questioning whether Manhattan really needs another stage, especially with the Culture Shed at Hudson Yards and the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site still in development. And still others are uncomfortable with the entire idea of privately funded parks. "This is great news for Pier 54 and its surrounding neighborhood, but once again we are relying on a private funding model that only works in areas with wealthy neighbors, leaving countless parks in low-income parts of the city to fight over inadequate public resources," Councilman Mark Levine told the Journal.

If the park comes to fruition, it would be tough to think of anyone who has shaped the landscape of Lower Manhattan's parks more than Diller and Von Furstenberg, who, as a couple, are also the single largest private donor to the High Line.
· With Bold Park Plan, Mogul Hopes to Leave Mark on New York's West Side [NYT]
· Hudson River Park Gets $100 Million Launch [WSJ]
· Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg propose $130 million park pier in Hudson River [NYDN]
· Pier 55 gets $130M bid to create an 'island oasis' [NYP]
· Barry Diller is planning a $170 million island park in the Hudson River [Verge]