The futuristic Pier 55 park designed by Thomas Heatherwick and financed by billionaire mogul Barry Diller and wife designer Diane von Furstenberg has begun taking shape in the Hudson River in a real way. The New York Times visited the site to scope out the installation of the park’s first concrete supports, known as pots, that will give the 2.4-acre pier its characteristic undulating look.
The 132 pots are arriving on site by way of barge, shipped from upstate New York where they’re being fabricated. At Fort Miller Company concrete plant in Easton, N.Y., the pots are shaped with custom foam molds. The largest of the supports are 30 feet tall and weigh 90 tons.
From Fort Miller Company, the pot segments are trucked an hour south to Port of Coeymans marine terminal, where they’re fully assembled and put on a barge to make the southward journey. Once they reach their destination, a 350-ton crane hoists them into place in the Hudson, just south of Chelsea Piers and just north of the Standard High Line in the Meatpacking District.
Brian Aronne, senior vice president at Hunter Roberts Construction Group who’s coordinating the building of the pier, compares the precision needed to install the pots by crane to “[threading] a needle from 200 feet in the air.”
The installation of the pots is expected to wrap up in March 2020, with officials shooting for a spring 2021 opening date when visitors can enjoy the architecture and the landscape architecture of Mathews Nielsen. Work is also ongoing on the flat portion of the pier and the two walkways that will connect Pier 55 to Hudson River Park, which it’s nested within.
The $250 million park was thrust into jeopardy by a series of lawsuits lobbed by the small civic group The City Club of New York, who had been acting under the surreptitious funding of developer Douglas Durst. Diller officially pulled his financial support for the park in September 2017, but the two sides came to a consensus in October 2017 after the intervention of Governor Cuomo, greenlighting the pier once more.
In an interview with the Times, Diller spoke to the park’s near-undoing. “It was a gift to the city and the people of New York, and then to have it opposed by what turned out to be narrow reasons not having to do with the public interest, it was devastating,” Diller said.
But all’s a go now with the park’s cornerstone being laid last week. Installation of the pots will take a brief hiatus during the winter months and resume in May, so a prompt visit is in order for those wanting to see the city’s newest pier park in the making.