NEW YORK — A whimsical new park that appears to float on pilings above the Hudson River opened to the public just off the Manhattan shoreline Friday, four years after a fight between media mogul Barry Diller and a billionaire real estate developer threatened to derail it.
The new park, called Little Island but nicknamed Diller Island while under construction, was built with $260 million from the foundation of Diller, the former 20th Century Fox CEO, and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
It joins a string of piers along Manhattan's west side that have been redeveloped for recreational use over the last 20 years, but its unusual design sets it apart.
Media mogul and billionaire philanthropist Barry Diller poses for a photograph, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Little Island, a new public park along the Hudson River in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Little Island's flowers, trees and performance spaces rest on 132 concrete pots that the park's creators call tulip pots. The pots are set on pilings of different heights, so that paths wind through the 2.4-acre (1-hectare) park at a gentle, rolling grade.
The park is reachable by two bridges.
The design is from Thomas Heatherwick, who also created the Hudson Yards climbing structure known as the Vessel, some 20 blocks north of Little Island.
Diller, also a major donor to the nearby High Line, has spoken of Little Island as an enchanted forest or a visit to Oz.
A woman rolls a baby carriage past a series of concrete tulip pots that support Little Island, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in New York, days before the new public park s planned opening Friday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
"All of it is an oasis of everything fun, whimsical, playful that we can conjure," he says in a video on the park's website.
Plans for the project, part of the state-run Hudson River Park, were announced in 2014, but several lawsuits were filed arguing that the park had been planned without public input and could threaten marine wildlife. Real estate developer Douglas Durst, who had been pushed out of his position as chair of the fundraising group Friends of Hudson River Park a few years before, was revealed to have bankrolled the lawsuits filed by the nonprofit City Club of New York.
The amphitheater at Little Island is seen, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in New York, as workers prepare for the new Hudson River park s scheduled opening on Friday. The amphitheaters will feature performances from June through September. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Facing rising costs because of the litigation, Diller announced in September 2017 that he was pulling the plug. He agreed to revive the project the next month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal.
Little Island will be open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, but there will be timed entry noon to 8 p.m. at least through September, executive director Trish Santini said.
Entertainment including musical performances, theater and dance will start in mid-June, she said.
Producer Scott Rudin, who stepped down from the Broadway League last month over allegations of abusive behavior, was part of the team planning the performances spaces but "doesn't have a formal ongoing relationship with the project," Santini said.
People rest in the shade beneath funnel-shaped concrete tulip pots that support a new park along the Hudson River on the site of a crumbling pier damaged in Superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
There will be a mix of free and ticketed performances at the park's a 687-seat amphitheater. A smaller stage in an area called the Glade will host additional performances.
New Yorkers and visitors who walk on the High Line or bike along the waterfront have watched as Little Island was assembled, piece by piece.
The concrete tulips that support the park were fabricated and pieced together in upstate New York and floated down the Hudson by barge, four at a time, Santini said.
Giant concrete tulip pots that support Little Island park are seen from beneath, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in the Hudson River near the West Village in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Planting started after the massive tulips, which some liken to mushrooms, were in place at the end of 2019. The park's landscaping was designed by Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects to evoke a leaf floating on water. It features 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs and 290 types of grasses, vines and perennials.
Little Island's human-made hills provide views of the Hudson on one side and city on the other, but the park's carefully constructed topography makes it feel like its own little world.
A stairway leads to one of the highest points of Little Island, a new Hudson River Park, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
"I think it's going to represent for New York a place to come to rest and restore but also ignite their imaginations and remind us all that we're creative," Santini said. "My hope is that people come back time and time again because they realize every time they come there's always something new and fun to do."
Little Island, a new public park with winding paths, staircases, views of the New York City and the Hudson River, is seen, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in New York, several days before it s planned opening to the public Friday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)