Barry Diller Revives Plan to Build a $250M Floating Island on Hudson River

Courtesy of Pier55 Inc./Heatherwick Studio

Diller said he has received "countless" emails, calls and texts of support since he announced in September that he was abandoning the project.

Barry Diller's dream of creating a floating $250 million island in New York's Hudson River that would include a park and performance center is back from the dead.

On Wednesday, Diller reversed his earlier decision to scrap plans for the Pier 55 project at 13th Street and has decided to forge ahead and it appears that previous complications stemming from a legal dispute and opposition from one of New York City's most powerful real estate developers is no longer an issue. "In these last weeks I began to think that we should not let it go, and that I would try to put aside the disappoints and difficulties of these last years," Diller said in a statement in which he notes that he has received "countless" emails, calls and texts of support since he told The New York Times that he was abandoning the project because of the cost overruns and the litigation. "So, I'm going to make one last attempt to revive the plans to build the Park, so that the intended beneficiaries of our endeavor can fall in love with Pier 55 in the way all of us have."

Diller’s renewed interest in the Pier 55 project came at the urging of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who inserted himself to help broker a deal between the various parties over the last week. Cuomo’s involvement appears to have worked.

"I have spoken to the parties involved in the lawsuit against Pier 55 and expressed my belief that cooperative efforts to complete the overall Park are more constructive than litigation and stalemate,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I believe all parties have a higher goal and desire that the Park should be completed, and can be completed, in the near future.”

The Cuomo-led negotiations helped settle one major point of contention —the fate of an estuary near the park. With Cuomo’s assurance that the estuary would be protected, he was able to secure a pledge from the City Club of New York, a civic group that had been the plaintiff in several lawsuits that they would and all future litigation. Those lawsuits centered on the environmental impact of the park, which the group claimed had not been properly studied. It was revealed by a local newspaper that the developer Douglas Durst was helping fund the lawsuits.

In a statement, both Richard Emery, the founding member and counsel for the City Club of New York and Durst said they were in support of the Cuomo-brokered deal and that they would end their opposition.

The ambitious project was dreamed up by Thomas Heatherwick and would create a green space supported by mushroom piers with a large 200-seat amphitheater and two other landscaped performance spaces. When the plans were revealed in 2014 the project was budgeted at $35 million, but that figure has since climbed to more than $250 million. 

Diller said he will would reinstate his agreements with the state and federal agencies and the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversees much of New York's waterfront. Diller said that with assurances from the plaintiffs that they would not reinstate their litigation, he was eager to keep moving forward with the project.  

"And with all that, we'll joyfully proceed," he said.

October 26, 2:00 PM Updated with additional information and quotes.

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