How Barry Diller’s Pier 55 project finally went overboard

The media mogul's family staged an “intervention” with him

Barry Diller and a rendering of Pier 55 (Credit: Pier 55 Inc via Curbed)
Barry Diller and a rendering of Pier 55 (Credit: Pier 55 Inc via Curbed)

UPDATED, Sept. 25, 5:39 p.m.: Earlier this month — after years of legal disputes and around $40 million in pre-construction costs — Barry Diller officially declared Pier 55 dead.

At the time, the billionaire said “huge escalating costs” and “ongoing controversy” were the reasons he canceled the project. Now, a report from the New York Times throws more light on Diller’s decision to end the six-year saga that had engulfed his pet project, known as Diller Island.

“My family essentially had an intervention with me in the last couple of weeks to say, ‘We’ve watched you be stressed and tortured by something that was only meant to be a good thing,’” the billionaire media mogul told the Times. “Then my family said, ‘Don’t you think we should use our resources where they’re wanted?’”

He added he’d become “disillusioned” about the island in Spring, when a U.S. District Court judge ruled wok on the park had to stop because the Army Corps of Engineers had not properly considered the site a protected fish and wildlife sanctuary when issuing its original permit. Developer and fellow billionaire Douglas Durst had admitted earlier this year that he was bankrolling the lawsuits against the park.

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A new permit that was eventually issued meant construction could move ahead.  But Diller officially pulled his support for the project on Sept. 12.

The lawyer for the the park’s opponents Richard Emery said he was shocked Diller pulled out, and suggested to the Times that the Whitney Museum’s proposed floating art installation nearby was the reason he pulled the project. He was angry, Emery said, that the Hudson River Park Trust didn’t tell him about the proposal.

However, Diller said he didn’t find out about the installation until after he decided to drop his plans, so it had no weight on the decision.

A spokesperson for the trust told The Real Deal, “The idea that the demise of Pier55 had anything to do with the Whitney proposal — and that the Trust somehow concealed that proposal from Mr. Diller — is absolute nonsense.” [NYT]Miriam Hall