MEATPACKING DISTRICT — The Hudson River Park Trust is petitioning the agencies that approved the controversial Barry Diller-backed Pier55 park to let them change the pier's design after running into trouble getting prospective builders to bid on the project.
The request for the changes was first reported by The Architect's Newspaper.
The park project came under significant criticism after it was announced, when the local community board and area residents objected to not having had input into its design or the selection of the designer.
The Trust unveiled the design by Heatherwick Studios — featuring undulating hills and an amphitheater supported by futuristic mushroom-shaped "pots" instead of regular column-shaped pilings — at the same time they announced Diller's funding of the $130 million park.
In a letter dated Dec. 30, 2016, Trust Executive Vice President Noreen Doyle told the regulatory bodies that approved the project — the Army Corps of Engineers and state's Department of Environmental Conservation — that several potential builders "expressed reluctance to bid on the work because the pot fabrication, installation and alignment process is so heavily customized, requiring a degree of precision during installation that is atypical in the marine sector for such heavy precast components."
Because of that, "the construction manager is concerned that there will not be an adequate pool of bidders qualified to perform the work and willing to guarantee pricing, which in turn would make it impossible to properly manage the project's costs and schedule," Doyle wrote.
The Trust wants to reduce the number of piles supporting the pier from 535 to 508, reduce the amount of concrete in the hollow piles from 411 square feet to 280 square feet and reduce the number of "pots" from 202 to 132.
While they intend to replace 70 of the original proposed "pots" with a "conventional 'flat' pier design," Doyle said they plan for the park to have similar elevations as the original design by installing foam, soil, columns and "roofs" above the flat pier.
The park would still have the same square footage and and maintain "the design aesthetic of a pier supported by pots by retaining pots around the perimeter," Doyle wrote.
The park was also criticized by environmentalists concerned about the impact the pier will have on the river ecosystem below it, and Doyle noted in her letter that the new design "results in a modest increase in the amount of water that would receive direct sunlight less than one hour per day," but said that amount "would still be approximately 36 percent less" than the area under the original design.
While the Trust has won over many of the park's original opponents, including Community Board 2, one group has continued to fight the project in court, albeit unsuccessfully.
The City Club of New York, along with Tom Fox and Rob Buchanan, lost their main suit against the project in two separate courts, and their attempt to have it heard by the state's highest court was denied.
They filed a lawsuit against the DEC for approving the project, but recently lost that as well.
They still have a case pending against the Army Corps in the Southern District of New York, however, and highlighted the shadow issue in a comment to The Architect's Newspaper as potentially impacting the marine life below the pier.
"Pier 55 was conceived and sold on the basis of a major sculptural art, so by putting it on a flat base and putting a lace tablecloth around it, the whole thing becomes a parody of itself," Michael Gruen, president of the City Club of New York, told The Architect's Newspaper.
A spokesman for the Trust insisted the project is not substantially changing.
"The Trust has made technical alterations to make the project easier to build, but the topography, landscaping, program and size have not changed," HRPT spokesman James Yolles told DNAinfo New York. "Construction continues and we're looking forward to opening this addition to Hudson River Park in 2019."