Despite an abundance of alternative space available elsewhere, the Bloomberg administration has allowed a private corporation to occupy the entire 2. 4 acre Damrosch Park on W. 62nd Street behind Lincoln Center to accommodate Fashion Week for a few months a year. This brings the amount of private commercial use of the park to more than seven months annually. State Alienation approval was never received for using the public park land for what are clearly non-park purposes. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.
By Geoffrey Croft
The Bloomberg administration allowed IMG fashion and Lincoln Center to destroy 56 trees and will allow an entire city park to be taken over for months annually in order to accommodate Fashion Week, private commercial event. Crews began preparing for the fashion event on August 19th whereby preventing the public from accessing what is supposed to be a city park. State Alienation approval was never gotten for what is clearly a non-park purpose.
The sponsors proudly announced that the "five-year agreement between IMG Fashion and Lincoln Center will also allow IMG Fashion to unveil event upgrades such as modernized production capabilities for designers and digital services concurrent with the advanced needs of the 21st Century.
The move to Lincoln Center has allowed IMG to envision an event for the 21st century,” IMG Chairman and CEO Ted J. Forstmann said in a press release. “We are tremendously excited to be able to offer the services to designers that the new location will allow as well as upgrade the technology and digital experience of every client, guest and partner.”
Obviously non of this qualifies as a park purpose.
Fashion Week was finally kicked out out of Bryant Park after a 9 year run. The event prohibited the public from enjoying - among other things - the park's center-piece lawn twice a year for many months, including during one of the most beautiful times of the year - the Fall.
According to the Parks Department website, "It is illegal and punishable by law for citizens to damage, destroy, perform unauthorized tree work or otherwise harm a street tree or park tree. No work may be performed on or within 50 feet of a street tree without a Tree Work Permit from Parks. Unpermitted work can lead to serious tree damage. Anyone caught removing or otherwise harming a tree should be reported immediately. Violations are misdemeanors punishable by a fine not to exceed $15,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. To report illegal tree damage, call 311 or use our forestry service request system."
The Parks Department has refused to say if permits were in fact issued and who did the killing. The agency has also refused to answer where the 11 trees were supposedly transplanted to.
The Bloomberg administration was on high spin control when they attempted to justify that the killing of the trees was done for heath and safety reasons.
When contacted Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp told the Daily News that the trees were removed because they were "dead" or "declining." Apparently the city expects the public to believe that it was an amazing coincidence all the "dead" or "declining" trees happened to be in the exact locations where they needed to erect the tents. The trees were in fine heath according to numerous park employees who spoke with A Walk In The Park under the condition anonymity.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer, whose Manhattan district includes Damrosch Park also contradicted the Parks Department's press representative.
She told the News that Parks Department officials told her they were going to remove the London Plane trees "in part because of Fashion Week - for the tents."
In Early August the Parks Department attempted to cover up the issue by saying the trees were suffering from the current drought and were "extremely stressed."
This was an embarrassing attempt at spin considering A Walk In The Park first heard about the Parks Department allowing the destruction of the trees in order to accommodate Fashion Week in the Winter - hardly drought conditions. Also implausible considering Lincoln Center certainly has the resources to water trees it wishes to. (Lincoln Center is contractually required to properly maintain the trees under their agreement with the city.)
According to event sponsors, the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center will feature more than 90 designers presenting their collections for Spring 2011.
Officials have repeatedly referenced Fashion Week's new home as being in Lincoln Center when in fact the main event is being held in Damroach Park, a public park. Officials elected not to use Lincoln Center's four buildings or its main plaza for the main fashion shows which would have prevented the destruction of trees and allowed the public access to the park. An irony considering the park was specifically built to accommodate the general public, not the commercial Lincoln Center.
“Parks is thrilled to welcome Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to its new, larger, home in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “All eyes are on New York City during this exciting week, when Lincoln Center and Damrosch Park will be at the epicenter of the fashion world. Additionally, the center lawn at Bryant Park and the winter skating rink will now be able to have much longer public seasons, thanks to the new location for the fashion shows.”
"It's really sad to see a landscape of his destroyed in New York City, cultural capital, without due discussion," Smith said.
The modernist park was built in 1969 and holds the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim bandshell, where events such as the Big Apple Circus are usually held.
A landscape architect familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous said the targeted trees were stressed because of a lack of water.
"You don't destroy them," the source said. "You water them."
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who heads the Council's Parks and Recreation Committee, called cutting down the trees "outrageous."
When you talk about all the pomp and circumstance the mayor is giving to planting all these trees and you hear something like this - it doesn't jibe," she said.
Mayor Bloomberg's Million Trees NYC initiative plans to plant and care for a million trees throughout the city over the next decade.
Mark-Viverito also took the Parks Department to task, saying it "has a habit and a way of operating where it really feels it's above having any accountability to anyone."
The trees were standing as recently as February, when Geoffrey Croft, head of NYC Park Advocates, learned of the plan and snapped photos of the them.
"That's a massacre," Croft said.
New York Daily News - September 10, 2010 - By Tina Moore
New York Daily News - September 11, 2010 - By Tina More
Trees Cut Down in Damrosch Park to Make Way for Fashion Week
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