By Brian J. Pape, AIADiller Island, aka Pier 55, has a new name—“Little Island”— announced by a November 13th press release and cartoonish banners at the construction site. Almost five years ago, when WestView News coined the name “Diller Island” to describe the 2.7 acres of giant offshore tilting concrete mushrooms from 12th to 14th Streets in the West Village, to our delight the New York Times picked up on our name and the area became Diller Island—until recently, when Hollywood show business impresario Barry Diller decided to call his ego-trip “Little Island,” perhaps to verbally diminish the disaster, despairing the exploding costs. The Diller/von Furstenberg Family Foundation and P55Inc. re-branded the Thomas Heatherwick Studio-designed tourist attraction on November 13th. Located only one block west of the Highline tourist park, we should expect to see more projects initiated by these two groups to draw the crowds to the Village.
Construction is pushing the size and height of Little Island ever larger and greater, starting at the historic Pier 54 archway and stretching to where Pier 56 used to be, adding more of the 132 pot-shaped concrete structures high enough to avoid flooding. The landscaped artificial island will include a 700-seat amphitheater, for concerts and other performances via paid tickets, and will be reached by two connecting bridges paid for by the city at a taxpayer cost of $40 million.
First estimated at $130 million nearly four years ago, before being shut down by a lawsuit, Diller Island was revived in October, 2017 by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pledging $50 million to help complete the remaining 30% of Hudson River Park, with the condition that the city raise a matching amount. The state added $23 million the next year. Madelyn Wils, president of HRPT, emailed us to say, “P55Inc will be operating the programming at the pier. HRPT will maintain it. P55Inc will pay for maintenance above the structural deck, which includes all utilities. P55Inc will pay $1 a year. All revenues from P55Inc programming will go back into the pier for either programming (which is subsidized) or paying for maintenance of the pier.”
Now, the entire length of Hudson River Park is currently undergoing an extensive $1 billion renovation, thanks to funding sources beyond the HRP’s revenues which were never adequate.
Hudson River Park’s Pier 97, by comparison, is a 680-foot by 120-foot pier formerly used as an outdoor music venue, and is planned to only cost an estimated $38 million for a park designed by !melk. Construction on Pier 97 will begin fall 2020, with playscapes, a sports field, a sun lawn, seating areas, and landscaping, for an anticipated opening by spring 2022, taking just 18 months.
Meanwhile, the seven-year construction, now estimated to require $250 million (that’s almost $1.9 million per pod), of Little Island will not be completed until spring 2021.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “Green” Architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is a journalist.