By George Capsis
In a recent two-part article by Lincoln Anderson, the now years’ long ego tussle to control the development of the Hudson River Park was traced, culminating in the now locked-horns court battle to stop Pier 55, also known as Diller Island.
As we go to press, an appeal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow construction may be approved. We may then have yet another court action by The City Club of New York (City Club) to stop, or at least slow, the island’s construction.
Without question, the dominant ego has been billionaire TriBeCa dweller Michael Novogratz who recently bought Robert De Niro’s spread. In 2015, he was ousted from Fortress Investing due to two very wrong multi-million-dollar investment decisions relating to Brazilian debt and the Swiss franc. He walked away with a $255 million package, leaving him still very much a billionaire, and with an ego to match.
The key to Novogratz’s brawling personality is that he was the captain of the wrestling team at Princeton and continues to sponsor public school programs. He was the one who offered to pay $90 million for the air rights of Pier 40, which was sneakily passed in at the end of the Albany session by Deborah Glick.
In 2010, Novogratz was appointed to the Board of the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) and followed Douglas Durst as Chairman of The Friends of Hudson River Park (FHRP). Novogratz’s four kids play in the park and he lives near it, prompting perhaps his proprietary feelings. However, his verbal attack on the members of the City Club and his competitors for control of the park, including Tom Fox and developer Douglas Durst, reveals Trump-like adolescent excess—he calls the City Club leaders “a group of old guys who still want to be relevant.”
One of those “old guys” is Tom Fox who was an early director of the Hudson River Park and headed the New York Water Taxis. He says that the HRPT and Diller met in secret and presented the island as a fait accompli. Douglas Durst was the head of FHRP in 2012 and offered a plan to construct offices on Pier 40. HRPT head Madelyn Wils is now offering that plan to no takers.
After last month’s court victory, which shut down Diller Island construction, I called City Club President Michael Gruen to ask if he had received any congratulations. The otherwise staid Gruen paused and changed tone as he recounted the tsunami of exhilarated bravos he received.
Novogratz accuses and Durst agrees that he (Durst) picked up the legal costs for the lawsuit when the main backers of Riverkeeper threatened to cut off funding. (Riverkeeper is an organization, based in Ossining, New York, which aims to guard waterways and defend clean drinking water.)
The Hudson River Park is the wreckage of the multi-billion dollar, federally-sponsored West Way, which would have extended the island by 500 feet with landfill and resulted in a partially submerged highway. It would have allowed West Villagers to walk on grass to the shore of the Hudson River but protest to save the breeding ground of the Stripped Bass. The federal government withdrew their billions for the park development and now we have a tussle between the egos of billionaires.
Two years ago, WestView’s Architecture Editor Brian J. Pape priced out the then-proposed enormous mushroom-shaped piles upon which the 2.7-acre island of reinforced concrete would be draped and predicted that they would be exorbitant. It proved to be so much that the contractors would only bid cost-plus, so the design was flattened. Now, to meet the concern of flowing liquid concrete into giant mushroom molds, the builders offer an even flatter version (more like concrete lily pads).
By the time you read this, the courts may have reversed, allowing Diller to go ahead and build his $200 million island for a few pop concerts during the clement months.
The only thing this small community newspaper can do is allow you to vote. You can now vote to have the $200 million spent to build a hospital to partially replace St. Vincent’s. And, since we have more than one billionaire living in and around the West Village, we invite them like, Kenneth Langone, to donate $200 million. We will name the hospital after them.
Cast Your Vote! Mail your vote and contribution to 69 Charles Street, New York, NY 10014.
1. ___ I think Barry Diller should donate $200 million to build a concrete platform for outdoor concerts.
2. ___ I think Barry Diller should donate $200 million towards the construction of a hospital in the West Village.
3. ___ I would like to donate to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, The West Village Fund, to restore a hospital in the West Village.
Here is my donation of $___________.
4. ___ I don’t have any spare cash but I think those who can afford it should contribute to building a hospital so it is
there when I need it.
5. ___ I don’t plan to have a heart attack or any medical emergency so don’t build a hospital.