A crumbling old Hudson River pier once used by ocean liners like the Lusitania will be torn down and replaced by a 2.7 acre park on the water featuring rolling hills and an outdoor amphitheater. Mayor de Blasio is expected to reveal further details about the park at a press conference this morning, but the Hudson River Park Trust has revealed that the park will be largely financed by a foundation formed by the billionaire couple Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.
“New York has always reminded me of Venice, so I am happy the time has come to properly honor its waterways,” Diane von Furstenberg said in a statement. “What better than a park on the city’s western bank to rest, watch a sunset or a performance?” The talented producer Scott Rudin, theater directors George Wolfe and Stephen Daldry, and British theater executive Kate Horton will oversee the performance spaces, with Diller pledging to fund cultural events there for 20 years.
Von Furstenberg, the fashion designer, and Diller, the former head of Paramount Pictures and Fox, have committed $113 million to the park's construction, with the city
pledging another contributing $17 million on top of that, plus $18 million from New York State to build an esplanade to the pier park. The park will be between the pile fields of Pier 54 and Pier 56, which will remain in order to provide a fish habitat.
The Hudson River Park Trust will maintain the park, which will be located near the end of 14th Street just west of the Meatpacking District, and promises that it will be open the same hours as the rest of Hudson River Park. More details from the Times:
The park’s parallelogram-shaped platform would sit atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns that are to range in height from 70 feet above the water to 15 feet above, roughly the minimum required post-Hurricane Sandy.
The undulating form is not merely a design feature, but an attempt to address environmental issues in an area of the Hudson designated as a marine sanctuary and spawning ground for striped bass. The platform’s height would allow sunlight below and would also guard against storms.
The biggest performance space planned for the park could accommodate up to 1,000 people in seats and another 2,500 on a lawn. Other sections would hold an 800-seat amphitheater and a small stage with 250 seats.
The project must still be approved by the Hudson River Park Trust’s board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and will undergo a 60-day public review.
State Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, a Democrat whose district includes Hudson River Park, has objected to what she says is a lack of transparency in the project, which appears to have taken many by surprise. "Throughout history, there’ve been major patrons of the arts,” Glick told the Times. "They get to determine what the classics are, whether they commission a Beethoven symphony or a major park. But it is deeply disturbing that the trust failed until now to disclose what it is doing."
UPDATE: Asked about Glick's comments, a spokesperson for Hudson River Park issued this statement to Gothamist:
Since 2011, before this project was ever envisioned, Hudson River Park Trust talked about rebuilding Pier 54 into a new shape that would allow for more flexible park use. Community Board 2 endorsed this idea as far back as 2012, agreeing that altering the shape would create a better experience for park users. Of course, a long period of negotiation is required to conceive of any project of this nature, so the design and programming ideas have continued to evolve since then. Now that the idea and concept design embodied in a proposed lease are developed, we look forward to engaging with the public through community board meetings, our Advisory Council, and of course the formal public comment and hearing process, to help ensure that this incredible public amenity comes to fruition.
Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, is also troubled by the project. On his website, A Walk in the Park, Croft writes, "Diller is obviously being extremely generous, but private citizens are being able to dictate public spaces. The public has been completely left out.” Madelyn Wils, president and CEO of the trust, insists, "This is not privatization. They're going to be operating in a public park so the park has to remain open and accessible."
The park's current design is the work of Heatherwick Studio, which is teaming up with landscape architect Mathews Nielsen. According to Hudson River Park, "The pier will be a place of discovery, where visitors can wander and wonder, finding something new around every corner: places to lounge, eat lunch, or just lie in the grass. The park’s undulating topography - replete with lush lawns and pathways - will offer sweeping views of the Manhattan and northern New Jersey skylines for all park-goers and provide a natural viewing area for the new performance space, which will be designed to immediately serve as one of New York City’s premier venues for music, dance, theater and public art, along with community events.
"The majority of Pier55’s programming will be free and low cost, with prices set in accordance with nonprofit programming in New York City."
If and when the project is approved, construction would begin next year with an expected completion date of 2018 or 2019.