By George Capsis
Oh wow! The day after WestView’s June issue came out with the front-page article (“The Ego Fight for Diller Island”) about the now years-long ego clash between Wall Street tough guy Steve Novogratz and staid developer Douglas Durst to control and shape the Hudson River Park, Charles Bagli of the Times released pretty much the same story, entitled “Clash of Titans,” and offered the name WestView has given to Pier 55—“Diller Island.” There’s no question that Bagli lives in the Village and reads WestView—how nice.
In my June article, I anticipated that the courts would reverse themselves and allow the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the now radically-revised design for Diller Island (they changed the enormous bulbous mushroom-shaped piles to flattened, concrete lily pads). Of course, the courts did so and, right now as you read this, Barry Diller could be driving piles—kerbang-kerbang-kerbang.
I called the very nice and soft-spoken president of the City Club of New York, Michael Gruen. He stated that they were still vigorously pursuing their resistance to Diller Island but could not, for strategic reasons, reveal what action they were taking.
Bagli very nicely recapitulated the originating history of the ego clash but omitted that the New York Water Taxis’ executive Tom Fox was an early head of the Hudson River Park Trust, just before Madelyn Wils took over in 2011. Madelyn reports to the stately Diane Taylor who is the long-term paramour of Mike Bloomberg (Did you see Mike on 60 Minutes? He pilots a helicopter.)
You have to wonder why the consort to a billionaire needs to keep the title of Queen of the Hudson River Park when she has no real function. Indeed, the failure of management and the so-called board to select a developer for Pier 40 after 20 years and two RFPs would indicate that the Park should have long ago been turned over to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Also, the management salaries should be used to build and maintain a senior center. Indeed, Bagli quotes Diller who mentions Durst’s “unhappiness with Taylor and Wils.”
But how does a good, huge City project get built? If you go back to 1858 and Central Park, you will see how two landscape architects—Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—were given an empty canvas to create a rolling romantic campus.
Say what you want about the imperious Robert Moses, a college swimmer, but he knew beaches and created the best City beach in America—Jones Beach. Avatar-ugly Diller Island is the product of a lack of management skill, taste, and ability and it should be eliminated along with those who allowed it to come this far.