A group has filed a lawsuit to block the construction of Barry Diller's $150 million park on the Hudson River.
The plan for Pier 55 and its 20-year lease were approved in February. Pier55 Inc., headed by Diller and his wife, Diane von Furstenburg, would kick in $113 million to sink 300 columns into the Hudson and whimsically suspend the 2.4 acres above the water, while taxpayers would cover the difference. Of course there would be concerts and performances. Venice, Italy was invoked. And so the Hudson River Park Trust, led by Michael Bloomberg's girlfriend, gave the green light.
But the City Club, a good government group, argues in the lawsuit that by approving the secretive project (Diller began pitching designs for the park in early 2012, but the public wasn't informed until November of last year), the Hudson River Park Trust failed to provide adequate opportunity for public comment, rushed through environmental reviews, and "violated the public trust doctrine by alienating public parkland to Pier55, Inc., a private entity."
"Pier55, Inc. retains tremendous discretion over the use of the new structure, including the power to charge whatever they may want to charge for tickets to 49% of events held in the structures two event spaces," the lawsuit argues. "The lease…also potentially allows for private memberships to the 'island' for permitted events and shows that the new structure is in fact a semi-private event space."
In addition to the environmental impact of driving hundreds of columns into the Hudson River and the shading the park will create, the lawsuit states that "the Pier 55 Project area will be home to a floating barge, adding to the overshadowed area, and adding moorings and other disturbings (this is slated to be an "actor's barge," which will be the size of some mansions)."
The City Club, which is also suing to prevent the construction of a mega mall next to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (that suit was recently argued on appeal), is asking a judge to prevent Pier55's construction until the trust complies with state regulations.
Rob Buchanan, a journalism and environmental studies professor at The New School, and Tom Fox, the first president of the Hudson River Park Conservancy, the group that preceded the trust, are also plaintiffs in the suit.
In response to the suit, a spokesman for the Hudson River Park Trust released this statement:
We are confident we have followed the law, including conducting an environmental review in accordance with state law, and going beyond what was required by inviting public comment on that review. We continue to believe the new pier will be an incredible amenity for the public.