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Old Posted Apr 20, 2015, 4:27 PM
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Location: New Jersey - Somerset County
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City Has Backup Plan if Barry Diller Pulls Out of Island Project

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.

Diller’s park, to be re-dubbed Pier55, would be a 2.4-acre futuristic confection designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. The alternative park would be 1.9 acres, with stainless steel railings and some decorative planters.

The trust told DNAinfo that it was confident that Diller’s project would move forward without a hitch.

“We have no reason to believe the Pier55 project won’t proceed. Good planning dictates that, as a contract contingency, the Trust and city consider the ‘what if’ scenario of no Pier 55 project,” Hudson River Park Trust spokesman James Yolles said.
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