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Old Posted May 30, 2017, 11:55 PM
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Battle of Diller Island Goes Another Round, With a Pier 55 Appeal

Pier 55, the long-planned $200 million performing arts center on a new pier in the Hudson River, is not dead yet.

In March, the project encountered a major setback when Judge Lorna G. Schofield of Federal District Court said the Army Corps of Engineers had failed to consider the effect of the 2.4-acre pier area, at the foot of West 13th Street in Manhattan, on a protected fish and wildlife sanctuary.

The Corps of Engineers, which oversees construction on the nation’s waterways, on Monday filed an appeal of Judge Schofield’s decision alongside the project’s sponsor, the Hudson River Park Trust.

The Hudson River Park Trust, which runs the four-mile-long park, also filed a modified permit application at the end of April that it hoped would overcome the judge’s objections.

The revised application eliminates two of the judge’s technical objections: the use of concrete to fill in some of the 550 pilings that would support the new pier and a barge that was to be docked next to it.

“Our new application eliminates that concern because there is no longer any fill proposed,” said a spokesman for the trust, James Yolles.

The trust has been hoping to replace a crumbling pier where it sponsored concerts and other activities, and it recruited a sponsor, Barry Diller, to foot the bill in 2012. Under Mr. Diller, the plan grew to encompass an elaborate recreation and cultural site designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect known for his innovative design for the Olympic caldron in London.

Mr. Diller, the chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, agreed to take on the cost of building Pier 55 and established a nonprofit group to book performances and maintain the park.

But critics, led by the City Club of New York, a civic group founded in 1892 that was all but dead a few years ago, have filed a series of lawsuits against the project, arguing that government approvals were the result of a “secretive process” devised to bypass public scrutiny. The decision in March was their first successful effort.

Mr. Diller has said the City Club is being bankrolled by Douglas Durst, the real estate tycoon whose family owns a dozen Manhattan skyscrapers and who was once an active supporter of the nonprofit Friends of Hudson River Park, the fund-raising partner of the trust. Mr. Durst has publicly opposed the plan.


The cost of the project has swelled to an estimated $250 million, from $130 million.

Mr. Diller said he found it discouraging to be involved in a project that is “completely in the public’s interest” but has been waylaid by what he said was a small group of critics.

“We’ll see what happens with this next step,” Mr. Diller said in an interview from Budapest. “Currently, we have an injunction and cannot proceed.”

Richard Emery, a lawyer representing opponents of Pier 55, said the appeal and the revised application “sound like desperation measures on the part of the trust and Mr. Diller.”

But Mr. Emery added that he welcomed the attempt to overturn a decision that is “so bulletproof and well reasoned.”
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