U.S. Army Corps gives O.K. to new Pier55 ‘arts island’

pier55 image
A design rendering of the proposed Pier55 project, which would overlap old pile fields of Piers 54 and Pier 56.
A design concept for Pier55, showing the pier viewed from the south. A small stage — one of three performances areas — is planned for the pier’s south side.
A design concept for Pier55, showing the pier viewed from the south. A small stage — one of three performances areas — is planned for the pier’s south side.

BY ALBERT AMATEAU | The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday gave the Hudson River Park Trust the go-ahead to start construction of the $130 million Pier55 project.

The corps modified its existing permit on the replacement for Pier 54 off of W. 13th St. to allow construction of the project, funded largely by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.

The Army Corps’ action was the last regulatory hurdle for the project. On March 31, the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave Pier55 its final approval.

A lawsuit filed by The City Club of New York to force the project to undergo a full environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., review was dismissed two weeks ago. The City Club board of directors has not yet decided whether to appeal the state Supreme Court dismissal, according to Tom Fox, a City Club member and an individual plaintiff in the suit.

Madelyn Wils, president and C.E.O. of the Trust, the state-city authority responsible for the 4.5-mile-long riverfront park, said, “As stewards of the Hudson River, the Trust worked carefully to reconstruct Pier 54 in a way that would be respectful of the environment. The project is a shining example of what innovative public-private partnerships can accomplish for the good of the city. And now that the regulatory agencies have issued their permits, we are excited to be in a position to start construction.”

Pier55 would be built partially on the former footprints of Pier 54 and Pier 56. But most of it would be on a new footprint — over part of the river that was not previously covered by a pier deck.

The 2.7-acre project, funded by a $113 million endowment by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, will be accessible from the Manhattan shoreline by two pedestrian bridges and be supported on concrete piles. The undulating square-shaped structure will rise from 8 feet to 62 feet above the surface of the river and include three areas for public performance with a total capacity for 5,000 people.

Supporters of the project include U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who characterized the project as “a jewel in the crown for New York City.” Schumer said he frequently cycles along the greenway bike path next to the park and eagerly anticipates stopping by Pier55 “for a concert, a show or just to watch the river roll by.”

Mike Novogratz, chairperson of Friends of Hudson River Park, the park’s private fundraising group, said he was looking forward to the start of the pier’s construction later this spring and completion in 2019.

“We will be lucky to have one of the great park piers of the city — and anywhere — right here in our backyard, to share with all New Yorkers for years to come,” he said.

The project, more an island than a pier, will include walking paths, hills, seating areas and open lawns. Admission to 51 percent of its programs would be free, while 49 percent could be priced at a rate comparable to similar attractions in the city.