Posts tagged with "the City Club of New York":

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Mayor de Blasio asks Douglas Durst to stop funding lawsuits against Pier 55

Update 7/21/17: This story has been updated with additional information on the City Club's recent activity, and the Army Corps of Engineering permitting process has been clarified.

Just when waters seemed calm, a new player has waded into the public spectacle that is the fight over Pier 55. To move the pricey project forward, Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked developer Douglas Durst to stop funding lawsuits against it.

The $250 million project is spearheaded by the Hudson River Park Trust, the public benefit corporation that manages Hudson River Park. The group, backed by substantial contributions from financier Barry Diller, asked London's Thomas Heatherwick to design a whimsical public space programmed for entertainment back in 2014. But almost since its inception, Pier 55, which is sited near Manhattan's West 13th Street, has been dogged by lawsuits from the City Club of New York, a once-dead civic organization that resurfaced in 2013 to challenge initiatives like the Midtown East rezoning.

But the Mayor's call to Durst last week may be paving the way for talks between the City Club and the Trust.

Through its lawyer, the City Club said it's open to negotiation but it's not backing off the courts. “In all likelihood,” Richard D. Emery told The New York Times, “we’re going to file a new challenge and then sit down and negotiate with them.”

Emery told the Times his client won't go to the table unless the park agrees to greater transparency in the future, giving stakeholders with divergent viewpoints space to discuss projects like Pier 55. (The Trust maintains its public review process for the project was above-board.) Right now, it's not clear what a settlement would include.

Durst wasn't always a foe of the group: He served on the board of Friends of Hudson River Park, a fundraising team that supports the Trust, but quit in December 2012. This May he confirmed rumors that he has been funding the City Club's lawsuits all along.

None of those cases were successful until March of this year, when U.S. District Court Judge Lorna G. Schofield ruled that the pier would negatively impact the rivers estuarine sanctuary, and thus countered the Trust's mission protecting the Hudson. After the Trust addressed the issues Judge Schofield cited in her decision, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new pier permit in May.

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Fight over Pier 55 continues with court appeal and new permits

The fight over Pier 55 continues: the group in charge of Hudson River Park has filed a new application to build out the pier and has appealed a recent court decision that effectively stopped construction on planned a concert venue and park over the Hudson River.

In March, Judge Lorna G. Schofield of United States District Court sounded an apparent death knell on the project with a decision that said the Hudson River Park Trust and the Army Corps of Engineers had failed to adequately assess how the pier's construction would impact the river's estuarine sanctuary.

Yesterday the Hudson River Park Trust and the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees construction on the river, filed an appeal of the judge's decision. The Trust also filed a modified permit application in late April that addresses some concerns raised in Judge Schofield's decision.

The new application nixes the barge that would be stationed alongside the pier and proposes a non-concrete fill for the mushroom-cloud "pots," the piles supporting the lawn, stage, and other planned programs on the $250 million pier. The project is designed by London's Heatherwick Studio, the same firm behind the recently axed Garden Bridge over the Thames.

“Our new application eliminates that concern because there is no longer any fill proposed,” Trust spokesperson James Yolles told the New York Times.

A civic group, the City Club of New York, has led a public crusade against the project, filing multiple lawsuits to stop its construction. The group argues that the Trust developed and approved Pier 55 in a secretive fashion, largely outside of the public eye.

The Trust maintains that the pier, with its ample recreation opportunities and performance venue, would be an asset to the area, and a positive extension of the four-mile-long Hudson River Park it stewards.

Financier Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, are fronting most of the money for the ever-more-costly pier. On Monday, Diller told the Times that, though he's still with the project, he's “ambivalent” about it because approvals are being stymied by opponents like the City Club.

That fight is playing out in local media, including the pages of this paper. Diller has said that the City Club's battle was financed by real estate mogul Douglas Durst—an accusation Durst himself confirmed in an interview with The Villager last week.

The City Club's lawyer, Richard Emery, told the paper that the new application and the appeal "sound like desperation measures on the part of the trust and Mr. Diller.”

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Heatherwick’s Hudson River pier is a no-go

It looks like the Heatherwick pier on the Hudson is a no-go.

A federal court vacated the permit for building Pier 55, which was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and largely funded by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband, financier Barry Diller.

Envisioned as a performance and events space that extends from Hudson River Park near 13th Street, the $200 million pier has sparked controversy from its inception.

Opponents, led by advocacy group the City Club of New York, found little public benefit in the project. The group asserted that the pier's undulating topography, supported by distinctive mushroom-cloud piles, would block views across the river from Hudson River Park, stir up pollutants in the silt, and block sunlight from hitting the water, making it a threat to marine life in the Hudson River estuary. From certain angles, the pier could be much flatter than initial renderings suggest.

In turn, the Hudson River Park Trust, the nonprofit that manages the park, declared that the 2.75-acre structure would provide much-needed recreation areas and cultural programming for thousands of New Yorkers.

The City Club brought multiple lawsuits against the Trust. In the latest, Judge Lorna G. Schofield of United States District Court said that Pier 55, despite its name and location, was mostly a park and a concert venue, and therefore wasn't dependent on the Hudson River for its existence. Unlike kayakers who depend on a boat launch, or swimmers on the beach, concertgoers and joggers could just as easily listen to music or work up a sweat somewhere else.

"We're very happy," said Michael Gruen, president of the City Club, told The Architect's Newspaper. "It looks like this ruling may be very beneficial for the public in terms of finally being done with a project that would obscure the view of the water and could very well go somewhere else."

Schofield's ruling, moreover, determined the pier would interfere with the Trust's fundamental obligation to maintain the Hudson as a fish and wildlife refuge.

“The Trust was given a duty to protect the estuarine sanctuary—and it failed to steward the river appropriately," said City Club lawyer Richard Emery. "Instead, it tried to put in a concert venue in one of the most important rivers in the world.”

The Trust shared the following statement when reached for comment: "We have won four challenges in four courts on this project. Not one of those decisions determined the proposed project would harm the environment—and neither does this one. But even if largely procedural, we are deeply disappointed by this ruling, and are reviewing it carefully to determine our next steps."

To continue the project, the Trust could re-apply for a permit with the Army Corp of Engineers, but the ruling (below) would make it almost impossible to build out Heatherwick's vision.

This post was updated with more information on the March 23 ruling.

 
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UPDATE: City Club of New York files Freedom of Information request into Pier 55 design changes

The City Club of New York is turning up the heat on the Hudson River Park Trust over the "secret, last-minute architectural design changes to Barry Diller's proposed Pier 55 project." In what may prove to be the most consequential "bait and switch" since Bruce Ratner tried to slide a third rate design for his Atlantic Yards arena past the trained eye of City Planning Commissioner Amana Burden, Pier 55 last week morphed into a less than thrilling design. Whatever the public merits of the Thomas Heatherwick design, at least its water-facing base was a fantastical undulating platform that continued up the sides of the park. That pod frame has now become a “conventional flat pier,” or as the City Club claims, "a pale parody of the original." The City Club has filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the Hudson River Park Trust asking for "any and all" records pertaining to "the new design of Pier 55, as presented in a joint application for a modification" to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. A City Club press release announcing the request claims that the Trust's "approach is consistent with the back-room dealing and lack of transparency that have characterized this project from day one." UPDATE: At 3:45 pm today, the Hudson River Park Trust issued a response to The Architect's Newspaper. That response is located immediately below. A full press release from the City Club of New York (included in this article's original form) is located farther down.
The Trust has made technical alterations to make the project easier to build, but the topography, landscaping, program and size have not changed. It's unfortunate but not surprising that the plaintiffs—who have now lost four times in four courts including the highest in the state—are making another desperate attempt to derail a project that has strong support among neighborhoods along the park, Community Board 2, park advocates and prominent civic groups. The plaintiffs' depiction of the submission of a FOIL request as a "major development" is ludicrous and illustrative of their desperation. Construction continues and we're looking forward to opening this addition to ‪Hudson River Park in 2019.
CITY CLUB DEMANDS ALL DOCUMENTS ABOUT PIER 55's SECRET 'BACK-ROOM' DEAL ON CHANGES TO 'DILLER'S ISLAND' PLANS Club FOILs records involving last-minute architectural changes to controversial plan. NEW YORK (FEB. 3, 2017) -- The City Club of New York has filed a FOIL request with the Hudson River Park Trust for all documents pertaining to its secret, last-minute architectural design changes to Barry Diller's proposed Pier 55 project. In a FOIL request to the Hudson River Park Trust, the City Club and plaintiffs Tom Fox and Robert Buchanan, asked for "any and all" records pertaining to "the new design of Pier 55, as presented in a joint application for a modification" to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. On December 30, with no public notice, the Trust notified federal and state regulators that it was overhauling the design of Pier 55. Most of the structure will now be a "conventional flat pier" rather than the undulating platform originally promised. City Club officials, who have been battling the rushed-through Pier 55 plan in state and federal courts for more than a year, said they have no information about how this design was developed, who was consulted, or what its impact will be on the environment. They said the new design could have different effects on views, noise, and shadow than the old design. "We have no way of knowing whether HRPT studied those effects. This approach is consistent with the back-room dealing and lack of transparency that have characterized this project from day one," officials said. "The Trust and Diller's request to change the project is of a kind with the bait and switch methodology of this project from the beginning: first to the community, then to the Legislature and now to the world at large," City Club lawyer Richard Emery said. "The Trust and Diller have misrepresented this project over and over again. Hopefully the courts and the Army Corps will get wise to this shell game." City club President Michael Gruen said: "The modified design for Pier 55 is a pale parody of the original. The theme of an organic cluster of stemmed vegetation growing from the River is utterly defeated by resting most of the 'island' on a conventional flat pier, flattening the undulation theme, and merely sprinkling the periphery of the 'island' with ornamental 'pots.'  No claim can credibly be made that community board support, claimed favorable public opinion, legislative support, or even the Trust's Board's rushed approval in early 2013, extends to this corruption of the original design on which such support arguably rested. The approval process must go back to step 1." Fox, one of the plaintiffs in the suits, added: "The Hudson River Park Trust was established to create a world-class waterfront park in an open and participatory process. The secrecy and closed door deals that the current leadership of the Trust are pursuing has undermined that public process and we must return to meaningful community involvement in decision making of the entire Park is in jeopardy." The FOIL request comes after a report that the plans had changed in the design. Here's the link. Michael Gruen President
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Pier 55 may lose one-third of its signature sculptural underside

This article has been updated with a new statement from the HRPT on the pier's design. The newest waterfront park on the Hudson may not appear quite like the stunning first renderings suggest. The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), a public benefit corporation in charge of Hudson River Park, wants to change its plans for the design of Pier 55. Initially conceived as an undulating 2.7-acre park supported by more than 500 mushroom cloud–like "pots" (precast concrete piers), the park was downsized slightly (to 2.4 acres), and many of the signature pots will be replaced by a flat structural base sandwiched between the piles and the landscaping. Conceived by London-based Heatherwick Studio and executed in collaboration with landscape architect Mathews Nielsen, the pier's sculpted topography, rising to six stories in some places, would host concerts, events, and public art in a sylvan setting that draws inspiration from the colors Acadia National Park in Maine. Over the objections of public space advocates, most of Pier 55's design and construction costs are being paid for privately by the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband, media executive Barry Diller. Overall, estimates place the project cost at more than $200 million, with the city contributing $37 million in funding. The Architect's Newspaper obtained a copy of a permit modification request the HRPT submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers that outlines changes to Pier 55's design (PDF). The changes raise questions about its final appearance, and about a design process that's shaped a major public space largely outside of the public eye. The modifications dramatically reduce the number of pots, a signature design element. In a letter to the Army Corps, the HRPT requested the changes because potential construction partners "expressed reluctance" to bid on the project, citing concerns about the pots' complex fabrication and installation challenges. The HRPT explained that an inadequate pool of bidders could lead to runaway construction costs. New drawings reduce the number of piles by 27 and the number of pots from 202 to 132. The remaining pots will be concentrated on the pier perimeter, concealing an interior supported by more traditional piles in steel and concrete. To visualize the changes, the original, more sculpted topography is depicted above, while the modified version of the design is below: Initially, the pots were supposed to provide the structure for the topography throughout; now the architects will use light foam material to create the rolling hills depicted in the renderings. In light of these substantial design modifications, one public space advocacy group is doubling down on its vocal opposition to the project. "Pier 55 was conceived and sold on the basis of a major sculptural art, so by putting it on a flat base and putting a lace tablecloth around it, the whole thing becomes a parody of itself," said Michael Gruen, president of the City Club of New York. The proposed changes, Gruen added, would reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the river for at least one hour per day by 36 percent, which could have an impact on marine life. The City Club has opposed Pier 55 almost since its inception. In a suit filed last year against the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the civic group's legal team contended that the Trust didn't do a proper environmental review of the project. In an email to supporters, the Club confirmed that that suit was dismissed, but called the court's decision "distressingly inaccurate." A second suit against the Army Corps of Engineers, the main permitting agency for the project, is ongoing. (Diller has called the lawsuits “garbage balls thrown at us.”) The group also contends that Pier 55, which sits between two city blocks, would obscure cherished public views of the Hudson. Plans show that the pier ranges in height from 9.5 to 61 feet above the waterline, potentially blocking the now-sweeping views. When reached for comment on the viewshed, pot count, and a request to verify other basic information in the document, the Trust, citing the pending litigation, declined to provide additional information "beyond what [it] has provided to the Army Corps." (Since press time, the Trust has issued the following statement: "The Trust has made technical alterations to make the project easier to build, but the topography, landscaping, program and size have not changed. Construction continues and we're looking forward to opening this addition to Hudson River Park in 2019." ) This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your city and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.
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Construction on Hudson River’s Pier55 park stopped by court order

In April this year, British architect Thomas Heatherwick's Pier55 project was given the go-ahead from the New York State Supreme Court. Back then, all looked good for the $130 million, 2.7 acre island of public space located off of the lower west side of Manhattan. Now, construction is to be delayed after the court has allowed opponents of the project more time for their case to be prepared. The result of an injunction issued by the New York State Appellate Division, the Hudson River scheme is likely to restart construction by September at the earliest. Notable opponents to Pier55—which is backed by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg—include the City Club of New York, who penned a letter published by AN in opposition of the project, activist Tom Fox, and environmentalist Rob Buchanan. "The project would require driving about 550 piles in an area of the Hudson protected as an estuarine sanctuary,” the City Club wrote in an AN op-ed published this January. “Diller and von Furstenberg would receive a 30-year lease to operate the island as a performing arts venue and naming rights to the island in perpetuity.” “The project has also been through a rigorous and transparent environmental review process and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has already determined that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required,” said the Pier55 development team in reply. “It must also be noted that Pier55’s 2.7-acre size is within the scope of what is allowed based on a 2013 law amending the state’s Hudson River Park Act. This amendment, crafted based on input from the local community board and other stakeholders, allowed HRPT to rebuild the former pier outside its original footprint.” In April, as mentioned earlier, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis ruled that The City Club's claims to be "without merit". "It would appear that a significant purpose of maintaining event spaces in the Park is to generate funds for the ongoing upkeep of the Park, which is surely a park purpose," said Lobis. In light of the recent injunction, City Club President Michael Gruen issued a statement said the move was a "valuable step in ensuring that this secretive and misguided project will not get off the ground."        
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NY State Supreme Court green lights Lower West Side Pier55

The controversial lower west side project, Pier55, just got the green light from the New York State Supreme Court this past Friday, April 8, to continue moving ahead. Last spring, the City Club of New York (a nonprofit organization) filed a lawsuit against Pier55 Inc. and HRPT to stop the project. Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller are major funders of the planned $130 million, 2.7 acre island of public space off of the lower west side of Manhattan. They established the nonprofit organization Pier55 Inc., and are working in a public-private partnership with the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT). U.K. based firm Heatherwick Studio (known stateside for their collaborating with Bjarke Ingels Group on Google’s planned Mountain View headquarters) and landscape architecture firm, Signe Nielsen, are designing the project. The City Club believes the project will hurt wildlife and is against public interest. “The project would require driving about 550 piles in an area of the Hudson protected as an estuarine sanctuary,” the City Club wrote in an AN op-ed published this January. “Diller and von Furstenberg would receive a 30-year lease to operate the island as a performing arts venue and naming rights to the island in perpetuity.” In response, the Pier55 team wrote a letter to the editor, published this early February on the AN blog: “The project has also been through a rigorous and transparent environmental review process and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has already determined that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required,” said the Pier55 development team. “It must also be noted that Pier55’s 2.7-acre size is within the scope of what is allowed based on a 2013 law amending the state’s Hudson River Park Act. This amendment, crafted based on input from the local community board and other stakeholders, allowed HRPT to rebuild the former pier outside its original footprint.” Construction is expected to start this spring, with an opening in 2019.