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Barry Diller-Funded Park Can Proceed After Court's Approval

By Danielle Tcholakian | September 8, 2016 1:27pm
 Design firms plan to construct a landscape of rolling hills at Pier55.
Design firms plan to construct a landscape of rolling hills at Pier55.
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Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

MEATPACKING DISTRICT — The controversial Barry Diller-funded island park known as Pier55 can proceed, after the Appellate Division upheld a lower court decision against the project's opponents.

The Appellate Division judges agreed with lower court judge Joan Lobis that the Hudson River Park Trust did an adequate environmental review of the project and that the nonprofit managing the Pier55 project, Pier 55, Inc., has a right to charge money for some performances in the park's planned amphitheater.

They also added that the opponents — City Club of New York, activist Tom Fox and environmentalist Rob Buchanan — didn't have standing to object to the fact that the Trust didn't put out a request for proposals and accept project bids from people other than Diller.

The judges wrote that the opponents "never alleged before the article 78 court that they had the wherewithal to submit a plausible competing bid or that, having suitable resources and expertise, they would have done so."

City Club's lawyer Richard Emery — the former chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board and a campaign supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio — had argued in court on Tuesday that they shouldn't have to submit a bid because without an RFP they had no guidelines to bid by.

"Although there is no prospectus, the record contains a detailed statement of the Pier 55 project, with projected costs and the amounts to be contributed by Pier55's philanthropic principals. Accordingly, petitioners have sufficient information to make a bid," the judges wrote.

After the decision came down on Thursday, Emery said he was "disappointed" and plans to appeal to a higher court. He has 30 days to get permission from the state Court of Appeals to submit the case for their review.

"We're going to do it much more quickly than that," Emery vowed. "We're going to seek our remedies in the court of appeals, seek a stay."

Emery slammed the decision as "a terrible precedent for environmental protection, especially of a legislatively-designated water sanctuary in the Hudson."

"The notion that this monster project can go through without a full environmental review degrades the public's assurances that we will not violate the environment without appropriate procedures," he said.

City Club still has two other cases pending against federal and state agencies that approved the project.

The court decision allows construction to resume on the project, after it had been temporarily halted by an injunction.

"We are grateful for the court's decision and are pleased to be back on our fall construction schedule, which will make Pier55 a reality for all New Yorkers," said a spokesman for the non-profit overseeing the island park, Pier 55., Inc.

Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust, heralded the speediness of the judges' decision, which came just two days after court arguments.

"This was a ridiculous lawsuit from the start, so we're pleased by today's swift and sweeping decision," Wils said in a statement. "Today's ruling marks a victory for the millions who love Hudson River Park, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to what will be one of New York's greatest public spaces."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement as well.

“I applaud the New York Supreme Court’s decision to allow Hudson River Park Trust to move forward on the long-awaited project to transform Pier 55 into a dynamic, vibrant public space all New Yorkers can enjoy," Cuomo said.