Why the Parks Department “Back-Up Plan” to Barry Diller’s Pier 55 Island Should be the Actual Plan

Diller's Proposed Island
Diller’s Proposed Island

As outlined by DNAinfo today, the New York City Parks Department has a “back up plan” if the $151 million privately financed Pier 55 project proposed by “media mogul” Barry Diller and friends falls through. The Diller plan aims to transform a pier of Hudson River Park into a “floating paradise for fundraisers and theater shows.” The alternative plan would be somewhat more modest in nature. It would be similar to … the rest of the park. At this site, I have outlined before the problems when private influence takes hold at public parks – and this is no different.

City has Back Up Plan if Barry Diller pulls out of Island project:

via DNAinfo 

CHELSEA — Billionaire media mogul Barry Diller plans to build a $151 million island oasis in Hudson River Park — if the group that runs the park meets his demands to revitalize nearby dormant space along the waterfront.

Under a lease inked with the Hudson River Park Trust, Diller has the right to pull his money from the project at Pier 54 if overhauls at neighboring piers don’t meet his satisfaction.

The lease sets out expectations that two long-troubled points in the cash-strapped park — Pier 57, a dilapidated former garage, and Gansevoort Peninsula, a swath of unused land whose fate is tied to the construction of a waste transfer station — will be developed into parkland and a commercial space.

Diller’s donation is also predicated on the construction of a publicly funded $22.5 million esplanade that will serve as an entrance to the island.

The city has pledged $17 million toward Diller’s vision and the adjacent esplanade. But DNAinfo New York has learned that, to hedge against the possibility of Diller bowing out, the Parks Department and the trust created a backup plan, a more modest $30 million park at Pier 54.

DNAinfo reviewed a working draft of the contract between the city Parks Department and the trust, which reveals that if Diller pulls out, the city’s $17 million investment will go toward a park in the same spot — but it’ll come without the bells and whistles in the billionaire’s vision. The contract is still in the process of being approved.

The difference between the parks is dramatic. Where Diller imagines a floating paradise for fundraisers and theater shows, the alternative park would be similar to other pier parks along the Hudson.

Is that so bad?

A commenter at DNAinfo named punto said:

Though this is far from my neighborhood, Inwood, I have seen what happens when private interests get concessions for projects built on publicly owned land. What was supposed to be an enhancement to the area has turned into a magnet for huge crowds that overwhelm the neighboring streets all summer long.

Just build a park that maybe, just possibly, the nearby residents could enjoy rather than one more glitzy, overdone tourist attraction, encouraging expenditure and overindulgent behavior by weekenders and tourists. The city can supply its own “entertainment” without Mr. Diller’s help just by being itself. I have been to just about every waterside area the entire length of the west side people seem to be having a good time where the main amenities are benches, water fountains and maybe a bit of grass to sit on here and there.

Strings Attached

“Mr. Diller’s contemplated donation should be understood within context,”

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