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Why Barry Diller's Building a $170M Floating Park

New York

By now you've heard the plans for media mogul Barry Diller and famous wrap-dress designer Diane von Furstenberg to create a $170M floating park in the Hudson. Some people were surprised by the news, but actually it seems the famed husband and wife team have been King and Queen of the neighborhood for quite a while.

Her fashion business' HQ and flagship store are situated in the heart of the Meatpacking District, and the couple's luxurious penthouse apartment sits atop. Plans for the park were disclosed on Monday; the Diller-Furstenberg Family Foundation will supply $130M. It will feature lawns, gardens and three performance spaces, including a 700-seat amphitheater. The 2.7-acre project, dubbed Pier 55, would replace the decaying Pier 54 on West 13th Street and be connected to Hudson River Park in Manhattan via platforms.

Nearby is the popular High Line (proving odd parks always travel in packs), which received $20M in funding from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation in 2011. As reported by the New York Times, an additional $39.5M of funding for Pier 55, which has the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, would come from the city, state and Hudson River Park Trust, subject to approval of the Trust's board.

Approvals also must come from the Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Conservation before construction can begin in 2016. The project raises thorny questions about private control over public spaces, the secretive planning process behind it and the potential competition between it and other new cultural institutions hoping to make their mark on the city, including the yet-to-be-built Culture Shed at Hudson Yards and the long-delayed Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site.

A look at the proposed 700-seat amphitheater. (Our sympathies with the actor who gets upstaged by a sunset.)

The view from Manhattan looking west.