Billionaire Wants To Build An Off-Shore Park In Manhattan

November 17, 2014 | Prachi Gupta

Manhattan’s western edge already boasts an impressive above-ground park with the High Line, but if billionaire Barry Diller gets his way, it may also hold an off-shore park that rises from the river. The New York Times reports that the media mogul has plans to convert Hudson River Park’s deteriorating Pier 54 into park Pier 55, which the Times describes as a “futuristic park built atop an undulating platform 186 feet off the Hudson River shoreline with a series of wooded nooks and three performance venues, including an amphitheater.”

Diller has donated $130 million toward the $170 million project — the rest of the funds come from New York City, State, and the Hudson River Park Trust, the Times reports. Diller will also cover the operating expenses for the park for the next 20 years.

Though there is some debate over the implications of what it means for a private donor to fund a public space — and how public, ultimately, it will be — the project has the support of advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It will be designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect who created the Olympic caldron for the London Summer Olympics in London, and will span 2.4 acres, sitting “atop 300 mushroom-shaped concrete columns” between 15 to 70 feet above water, as required by post-Hurricane Sandy guidelines. The largest performance space will seat 1,000 people, holding another 2,500 people on the lawn. “Other sections would hold an 800-seat amphitheater and a small stage with 250 seats,” reports the Times.

Diller, the former head of Paramount Pictures and Fox, and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, together make up the largest private donor for the High Line. But with Pier 55, Diller hopes to make his mark on Manhattan indelible. Though he originally budgeted $35 million for the park, it turned into a far more ambitious project in 2012. “I have always loved public spaces,” he told the Times. “It’s entirely my fault that this has become so ambitious. We will fail in our ambition, outsized or whatever it may be, if this doesn’t feel completely like a park and completely like a performance space.”

(Image: Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio)