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Mayor de Blasio intervenes in battle over Pier 55's floating park

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The mayor has asked Douglas Durst to stop funding lawsuits snarling the construction of a new pier park on the Hudson River

Mayor Bill de Blasio has intervened in the ongoing litigation against Pier 55, the floating park designed by Thomas Heatherwick and financed by media mogul Barry Diller. The Times reports that the mayor, a vocal supporter of the park, made a call to developer Douglas Durst urging him to drop his financial support of the lawsuits that have snarled the pier from moving forward. Durst admitted in May to anonymously bankrolling the series of nitpicky lawsuitsthat seek to halt construction on the park.

So, why would the developer have an interest in thwarting the $250 million entertainment pier? The answer to that appears to go back to Durst’s involvement with the Friends of Hudson River Park, who is now working with Diller to realize the money-generating venue.

Durst, a donor to and former chairman of the Friends of Hudson River Park, was unceremoniously ousted from his position on the board when former NYCEDC exec Madelyn Wils was appointed as chief executive of the trust in 2011.

The Times noted in September 2016, when Durst’s involvement in the lawsuits was beginning to come to light, that "[t]hough Mr. Durst publicly said then that he had agreed ‘to step down for the benefit of the park,’ making way for others who could donate or solicit more money, he seethed in an unpublished interview at what he saw as the highhandedness of the trust’s leadership."

Since the park’s unveiling in December 2014, lawsuits large and small have been lobbed at Pier 55 that have prohibited it from moving forward. In June 2015, the City Club sued Diller and Hudson River Park’s governing body over their concerns of the park’s environmental impact. That lawsuit was thrown out in April 2016, but the park still needed approvals from the army corps of engineers. It received that by the end of the month.

The City Club’s latest lawsuit, brought in March, halted construction on the project until June, when the Hudson River Park Trust received a permit modification approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with construction on the proposed park.

De Blasio issued a statement following the permit modification praising the park’s ability to move ahead. “This is a major step forward for a new public park on our waterfront,” De Blasio said. “It has been a bumpy road, but I look forward to the day when New Yorkers from across the city can come and enjoy this remarkable open space, and all the cultural and community programming it will offer.”

A new statement from mayoral spokesperson Melissa Grace speaks volumes of the mayor’s support for the project. “Endless and costly litigation that challenges Hudson River Park’s ability to grow and build out its capital plan serves no one — least of all the public. We’d like to lay this to rest so we can deliver the new public space the community deserves.”