Minutes before we closed the July issue, I got an unexpected e-mail from Doctor Kaufman (who now lives and works in Portola Valley) with an article about the legal stay by the City Club to hold off the start of construction of “Diller Island” along with these words…
“Some good news for a change.”
Oh, wow, is it ever. I was buoyed to learn that this dedicated professional agrees that spending $130 million to build a two-and-a-half-acre, undulating, concrete performance island on 70-foot-high mushroom stilts is the collision of poor judgment with bad taste.
I called City Club president Michael Gruen (they saved Grand Central Station) and reviewed the legal arguments.
The Hudson River Park Act does allow for the replacement of decayed piers but only on the same footprint. The Diller Proposal moves north and tilts the two-and-a-half-acre platform so it can be viewed by Diller in his 17th Street office.
Later I spoke to board member Tom Fox who said “This is a historic Pier; it is where the Carpathia unloaded the survivors of the Titanic. It is specified as a historic Pier in Hudson River Park Trust Charter—a performance space can be built anywhere.”
Gruen is disturbed that while Diller will open his island for some free events, it will also offer paid events “at the going rates” so with orchestra seats going for $150, Hamilton seats at $800 and with no land costs, the island should be cheap to build—and a very profitable theater for Diller.
The deal also calls for us taxpayers to pay for building up the embankment to make it into a theatrical truck parking area and building two bridges at a cost of $30 million plus maintenance.
My real argument with Diller Island is that this creation of loose and flamboyant designer Thomas Heatherwick is so gratuitously ugly. That opinion is shared by a noted London architectural critic who described Heatherwick’s tree-planted Bridge over the Thames and Diller Island as “Avatar.”
The final argument comes after working for days on Dr. Kaufman’s plea not to replace the 800-bed Beth Israel hospital with a 70-bed one on 2nd Avenue and 14th Street. A refurbished Pier 40 could accommodate Diller’s performances and the $130 million be offered to build—not Diller Island, but Diller Hospital. —George Capsis