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Douglas Durst appointed to Hudson River Park Trust board

The real estate developer has bankrolled lawsuits to halt the park’s most ambitious project

All renderings courtesy Pier 55 Inc.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced on Friday afternoon that Douglas Durst, the real estate exec who funded efforts to halt the Hudson River Park’s Pier 55, has been named to the board of the park’s governing body.

It’s one of the more bizarre twists in the Pier 55 saga, but Brewer told Crain’s that she “asked him to join the board—he didn’t volunteer or ask me.”

The venture to develop the futuristic floating park designed by Thomas Heatherwick had been beset with legal woes practically since its inception. The Hudson River Park Trust’s aspiring entertainment pier found a foe in the City Club of New York, a small civic club with well-documented financial woes that first started lobbing pricey lawsuits to halt the pier in the summer of 2015.

After several back-and-forth rounds in the State Supreme Court Appellate Division, the park’s major donor, media mogul Barry Diller, began to publicly speculate over who was actually behind the lawsuits. Diller told the Times in September that he believed developer Douglas Durst was funding the City Club’s judicial activities.

Durst admitted in May to anonymously bankrolling the lawsuits. Durst, the former chairperson of Friends of the Hudson River Park, left the trust at the end of 2012, after former NYCEDC exec Madelyn Wils was appointed as chief executive of the trust in 2011.

At the time, Durst publicly agreed to step down from his position, but the Times would go on to report that Durst “seethed in an unpublished interview at what he saw as the highhandedness of the trust’s leadership.”

Durst maintained that he was always deeply committed to the park, but had a different vision about how it should move forward. “I think he loves the park,” Brewer told Crain’s after Durst’s appointment.

With Durst now on board (pun intended), Diller’s renewed agreement to fund the park, and the City Club’s peace offering after Governor Cuomo’s intervention in the project in October, it seems like Pier 55 might finally be happening.