The collapse of Barry Diller’s Pier 55 dream is without parallel in the annals of willful, malicious New York City obstructionism. There’s no glimmer of hope, no encouraging lessons to be drawn, no down-the-road silver lining.
Diller’s reasonable decision to walk away from a vision that had already cost him tens of millions of dollars more than he’d planned, and which might well never be built even had he sunk in tens of millions of dollars more, is a civic tragedy of Shakespearean scope. We’re left with the oft-repeated, defining word of “King Lear” — nothing.
And, as in the play, nothing will come of nothing.
Pier 55 would have brought the city and the world a magnificent recreational pier more like an island — a 2.7-acre oasis of rolling meadows and groves and a 700-seat amphitheater 186 feet from the foot of West 13th Street, reached by two picturesque pedestrian bridges.
Because Diller and wife Diane von Furstenberg’s foundation would have pumped in $110 million, no strings attached, the $130 million project (as originally budgeted) would have cost the city a mere $17 million — or a one-time outlay of $2.02 for each of its 8.4 million citizens. Diller would pay for any cost overruns.
Pier 55 would have been a shimmering jewel in the necklace of reclaimed West Side/Hudson River parkland that stretches south of 59th Street. It promised a free and welcome, alfresco attraction open to all on the site of long-rotting Pier 54, best known for receiving survivors from the Titanic in 1915.
Instead, the useless old hulk will remain as an aching reminder of what could have been — and what’s unlikely ever to be in the future, all because the City Club of New York, comprising a few well-funded environmentalists, decided to champion the American eel.
In an interview with The Post, Diller fumed at the fringe minority who tanked his dream, claiming he blew “way more than $40 million” and “it’s totally wasted.”
“In return for not having a park and entertainment center that would have been used by millions of people, potentially,” Diller said, “they achieved the following: They made it so the American eel, a fish, would not be endangered.”
Never mind that both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers, found the project harmless to aquatic life.
The City Club lawsuits were bankrolled by Douglas Durst, a normally civic-minded…