“Diller Island” goes out with a whimper

Media mogul pulls the plug on $250M Pier 55 project

Barry Diller, Douglas Durst and a rendering of Pier 55 (Illustration by Noah Patrick Pfarr)
Barry Diller, Douglas Durst and a rendering of Pier 55 (Illustration by Noah Patrick Pfarr)

Douglas Durst can break out the champagne.

After more than two years of legal wrangling over the proposed Pier 55 on the Hudson River, billionaire media mogul Barry Diller pulled his financial backing for the project, the New York Times reported.

The cost of the floating park and performance space ballooned from $35 million when it was first proposed in 2011 to $250 million, in large part due to legal challenges filed by the civic group City Club of New York. Diller revealed last year that Durst had been secretly backing the group, which spilled out into a highly visible and personal feud between the two billionaires.

“Because of the huge escalating costs and the fact it would have been a continuing controversy over the next three years I decided it was no longer viable for us to proceed,” Diller told the Times, which reported he appeared visibly distressed over scuttling the project.

News of Diller’s decision came as a surprise to those involved. A session that had been scheduled for Wednesday to discuss a settlement in the case was postponed at the 11th hour.

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“We are totally surprised by this development,” said Richard Emery, an attorney for the City Club. “We thought the negotiations were proceeding to a resolution.  Diller’s decision respects the legislature’s intent to protect the Hudson as an estuary rather than an entertainment venue. In the end, all the Trust’s machinations and secret deals backfired as they were destined to do from the beginning.”

But not everyone was pleased with the final outcome. Senator Chuck Schumer blasted the City Club, which Durst reportedly supported as an act of retribution after being ousted from the Friends of Hudson River Park fundraising group, which backs the Hudson River Park Trust overseeing the pier project.

“For such a small group of people to hold up a public and philanthropic project that would benefit so many is just awful,” he said. [NYT]Rich Bockmann