New York City’s brand new billionaire-funded public park will open its gates to the masses on Friday morning, after five years of construction and multiple lawsuits that nearly sank the controversial project.

Funded and conceived by media mogul Barry Diller, the unique $260 million park — called Little Island — sits atop 132 concrete tulip-esque pods, each of them driven into the bedrock of the Hudson River, off the shore of 11th Avenue near 13th Street.

Once there, visitors will find a lush and dazzling green space, intersected by winding pathways, weathered steel arches, and leisurely pockets of grass towering as high as 60 feet above the estuary. On the western edge, a 687-seat amphitheater (“The Amph”) will soon offer arts programming and, one can safely assume, some of New York’s most sought after sunset views.

The internationally renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick — of Vessel fame, locally — is said to have imagined Little Island as a magic carpet billowing in the wind. That fantastic vision proved an engineering headache, threatened at times by wobbly piles and a construction schedule reliant on the migratory patterns of striped bass (the whole structure is held together by an enormous concrete slab, we’re assured). None of that stood in the way of completion.

The timing of the pandemic wasn’t ruinous either, as multiple parks staff noted that the planned Spring 2021 launch had perfectly coincided with New York City’s reopening. The park will have space for roughly 1,000 people, with timed entry reservations between noon and 8 p.m. (The ticket link went live for the first time today, and crashed the system.)

In many ways, the floating enterprise is a monument to the power and perseverance of Diller, whose deep pockets and connections managed to quiet those who’d question why a single man should be allowed to erect a futuristic island above a public waterway with virtually no outside input.

For a brief moment, Diller did abandon the project. But just when it seemed that a lawsuit funded by a rival real estate magnate Douglas Durst had crushed his dream, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in to broker a compromise between the two warring billionaires.

Reached by phone on Thursday, environmental activist Marcy Benstock, who tried to stop the project on ecological and constitutional grounds, accused the Hudson River Park Trust of “substituting money and disinformation campaigns for sound public policies and real democracy.”

Trish Santini, the island’s executive director, disputed that notion. She said there were many stakeholders involved in the project, and that while Diller was at the helm, “New Yorkers have always benefitted from staggering moments of philanthropy.”

And indeed, New Yorkers will benefit greatly from the Island. While Heatherwick’s Instagram-ready design may draw people in, it’s the wondrous interior landscape that will keep them coming back. The park is dotted with 350 species of colorful flowers, curved benches made of black locust wood, and more than 100 trees.

Thanks to Diller’s generosity, the budget for plant material alone hovers around $5 million — tenfold what might be spent on a public park of equivalent size, according to Signe Nielsen, the project’s lead landscape architect. Including the cost of shipping and installation, a single red maple on the north lawn ran upward of $25,000.

Nielsen, who’s worked in more traditional city parks before, admitted she had some initial concerns about the idea of a billionaire-concocted public space. But her doubts evaporated when she learned of the scale of Diller’s commitment, including $120 million for park maintenance over the next two decades.

“It’s a gift to the city that’s unparalleled financially,” Nielsen told Gothamist on Thursday, as she helped unload bulbs from a wheelbarrow. “Is this worse because of the lack of public input, or is it better?”

You can reserve timed tickets (which are free) here. Little Island is located at Pier 55 in Hudson River Park, at 11th Avenue and West 13th Street.