Tribeca Film Festival Sues N.Y. Developer for $100 Million

Robert De Niro's group says it was exploited in the bidding process for rights to a pier.
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The Tribeca Film Festival knows the value of Manhattan waterfront property.

On Monday, Robert De Niro's organization filed a lawsuit in New York court against Young Woo & Associates, claiming more than $100 million in damages from the developer's decision to name Pier 57 a "SuperPier" and not go forward with an alleged agreement on rooftop space.

According to the lawsuit, YWA was competing for the rights to lease the property.

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It was the decision of Hudson River Park Trust to award rights, and a factor in the decision was which developer would utilize a significant portion of the property for public use.

In 2009, Tribeca Enterprises entered into an alleged deal with YWA. For just $1 in annual rent, Tribeca Film Festival would establish a permanent outdoor venue on the roof of the pier, offering a mix of film-, music- and arts-based programming. On top of that, YWA would contribute up to $5 million toward Tribeca's requested improvements and give the festival 80 percent of profits from events, concessions and advertising. But that's not all: Tribeca allegedly got naming rights too.

"YWA then submitted its proposal to HRPT, which highlighted Tribeca's involvement in the Project and used Tribeca's name and prestige to the full extent possible in securing the bid award from HRPT," says the complaint.

But the plaintiff says it was a sham.

"Unbeknownst to Tribeca," says the lawsuit, "YWA apparently wanted to take the opportunity to use the public space as more of a profit center rather than for the public use that was contemplated in the Agreement and by HRPT when the bid was selected."

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On Sept. 3, it was announced that Pier 57 would be renamed the "SuperPier."

The next day, upset officials at the Tribeca Film Festival met with YWA concerning the name. The lawsuit says, "YWA took the position that the economic arrangement reached between it and Tribeca going into the public approval process no longer suited it, and that it wanted to re-negotiate all of the economic terms on which the parties based their entire arrangement."

Construction on the pier was slated to begin this month; it is scheduled to be completed in 2015. According to Jetset Times, the "SuperPier" name was derived from an article in Popular Mechanics published in February 1952, the year the shipping terminal was originally constructed. The developer is now planning on hotels, restaurants and retail establishments with the aim of remaking the pier into the next Rockefeller Center and a "powerhouse for creative people."

But Tribeca Enterprises aims to change the plan, not only asking for more than $100 million for YWA damaging its reputation and relationship with sponsors, but also demanding a judge enforce its agreement.

"We were disappointed to learn of the complaint filed by Tribeca Enterprises LLC," said YWA in a statement to THR. "From the onset, we have considered Tribeca Film Festival a valuable cultural partner in the development of Pier 57, which was clearly underscored by our offering of what will become one of New York City's greatest rooftop parks. As recently as last week, both sides have been working to advance a deal that would create the best programming for Hudson River Park and the pier's 300+ tenants. Despite this sudden impasse, we hope to come to a positive resolution to better the overall project."

Twitter: @eriqgardner