A dispute about the future of Hudson River Park gets nastier

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Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. (Martin Wippel via Flickr)
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Real estate developers Douglas Durst and Ben Korman have tendered their resignations as chair and vice-chair of Friends of Hudson River Park, thanks to an escalating dispute with the park's management about how best to fund its operations moving forward.

"While all the parties have the best interest of the park in their hearts, it became unworkable having this difference of opinion on strategy between Douglas and the trust leadership," said Jordan Barowitz, Durst's spokesman.

In an email, Korman said, "With the recent organizational changes made to the Friends, and my growing discomfort with regards to the Trust’s management, I felt that my advocacy would be more effective outside the Friends framework."

The Friends of Hudson River Park recently morphed from the main advocate for the park into, "the Trust’s private fundraising arm," according to the Villager.

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At the same, a dispute has grown between Durst, Korman and the city-and-state appointed board of the Hudson River Park Trust, which is charged with running the park, over the future of Pier 40.

Jutting into the Hudson River from W. Houston Street, the deteriorating 14.5-acre pier now houses a tiered parking lot, athletic fields, and park offices.

Its operations help underwrite the operations of the park, which by state law, is intended to  be self-sustaining.

But the pier's decay, further hastened by Hurricane Sandy, has cast doubt over the ability of the park to survive.

According to the Villager, "until recently Pier 40 has supplied about 40 percent of the park’s revenue."

At issue is how best to utilize the pier so as to create the most revenue for the park moving forward.

The Trust has proposed, among other things, to build housing there, but Durst argues that housing isn't financially viable, and he and Korman have called for instead consolidating the parking and building commercial space there.

Though Korman once ran the parking on the pier, and Durst develops both residential and commercial real estate, they've said they have no interest in operating the pier.

In recent weeks, the dispute has continued to escalate.

Earlier this month, Durst and Korman publicly took issue with what they described as the Trust's inflated estimate of how much it would cost to repair the pier.

A.J. Pietrantone, the executive director of the Friends of Hudson River Park and Madelyn Wils, the Trust's president and C.E.O., sent over the following statement:

"The Friends of Hudson River Park and the Hudson River Park Trust are extremely grateful for the many contributions of Douglas Durst and the Durst Organization to Hudson River Park. His philanthropy and advocacy for the waterfront and this distinct New York City amenity have had a profound effect on the quality of life for countless New Yorkers.. We welcome the leadership and commitment of Friends' Acting Chair Justin Sadrian as we develop a more permanent transition plan for the Board in the coming months. Despite these and other challenges, including the recent impact of Super storm Sandy, the Friends and the Trust remain wholly committed to working together to secure resources for the Park and sustaining its future."