Now that billionaire businessman and philanthropist Barry Diller has officially pulled his financial support for the “floating park” for Pier 55 designed by Thomas Heatherwick, effectively sinking the ambitious plan, those involved have stepped forward to voice their opinions on how it all went down.
Diller, obviously, is none too pleased. “It’s a huge amount of money. It’s totally wasted. It will go toward nothing,” Diller told the New York Post, referencing the sum upwards of $40 million he said he already invested in making the park a reality.
A large chunk of that sum, Diller said, went towards defending the plan in court in lawsuits lobbed by the small civic group the City Club of New York (who, it came out, was being financially supported by developer Douglas Durst.) The group would go on to file four lawsuits claiming the park would have detrimental environmental impacts.
A supporter of the park, Mayor de Blasio said he thought “the opponents should have been more willing to seek compromise.”
Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, whose district includes the area of the planned park, was skeptical of it from the get-go. “I thought that a new pier in a sensitive part of the estuary in days of climate change was very wrong headed,” she told the New York Times. “I was also concerned that large private money resulting in the control of design and programming was not a particularly democratic notion.”
Diller, the chairman of media company IAC, pledged to donate a nine-digit sum towards creating the park under the agreement that 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. (This agreement lead to the pier park’s nickname of “Hollywood on the Hudson.”) It was later revealed that the public park could be closed up to five times a month to host private shows.
As for what may come to replace the park, that’s still a big unknown. “We had been working on this project nearly six years, and we are not in a position right now to speculate about what will take its place,” Madelyn Wils, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, told the Times. “[T]his leaves a big hole for the park to fill and deals a blow to so many in the neighborhood and the city who were looking forward to enjoying the pier.”