NYC Park Advocates President Insists The Public Have A Say In The Process


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP)  The city will be getting a little greener.

Billionaire Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, have agreed to provide over $100 million to build a 2.7-acre park on a West 14th Street pier through a family foundation.

The couple will work with the Hudson River Park Trust to transform the unused Pier 54 in the Meatpacking District into a public park and performance space.

“If someone offers us a lot of resources to create someting we need and with minimal investment by the city, I think that’s great,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, including CBS2’s Dick Brennan.

The park would be built on an undulating platform jutting about 180 feet into the river. It would include an open-air amphitheater and a plaza that could be used for performances.

Work on the new green art space, which will be named Pier55, is expected to start in 2016.

The city will provide $17 million for the project while the state will offer $18 million for an adjacent esplanade.

While it sounds like a win-win, a beautiful park for the city that the public largely won’t foot the bill for, some say, not so fast.

“The public has to be a part of this process,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Parks Advocates.

Croft told Brennan the whole negotiating process was done in secret.

“That’s what happens when you have wealthy and influential individuals who have this much power. Again, this is public land,” Croft said.

Madelyn Wils, the president of the Hudson River Park Trust, insisted the proposed park will not be privately controlled, but run by the trust, Brennan reported.

“The funding of this, although discussed with many in the community and many elected (officials), was obviously a funding agreement, is done not in the public. I mean this was a donation that we were working on for two years,” Wils said.

Supporters of the proposal said the historical pier, where the Lusitania frequently launched, and the Titanic survivors returned, will now hopefully have a long future.

“It’s going to be fully open to the public, and, look, I know a good deal when I see one,” Mayor de Blasio said.

Diller is chairman of the New York-based media company IAC/Inter-ActiveCorp.

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