Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fashion Week Packs Its Bags While Community Waits For Park Restitution Plan

February 22, 2015.  Coming Soon - A Public Park.  Fashion Week, and other events like this are now prohibited from returning to Damrosch Park according to the far-reaching court ordered settlement reached in December.  The park, much of it destroyed to make way for private events, must also be restored.   The defendants however have not produced several key court mandated items required under the agreement. The Parks Department and Lincoln Center were supposed to appear on Monday night at CB 7's Parks Committee meeting but the item was removed from the agenda because the city and the arts group were not ready.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge 

February 19, 2015. Damrosch Park Convention Center.  For years the Bloomberg administration allowed Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) to rent out the entire 2.4 acre Damrosch Park to various private clients including Fashion Week (above) which they did for up ten months of the year.   These actions constituted an illegal alienation of Damrosch Park in violation of the New York State Public Trust Doctrine and other laws.     

"IMG Fashion Week shall vacate the premises and remove all tents and other Fashion Week equipment from the park," according to the settlement, which was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan.


By Geoffrey Croft

Thursday marked the last day that the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week could ever be held in Damroach Park.   

Since then crews have been dismantling the massive tents that have illegally occupied the 2.4 acre public park for the past 5 years.

The runway exodus did not come voluntarily. It is part of a settlement agreement reached with the de Blasio administration after area residents and environmental groups were forced to sue in order to get the park back.

The semiannual function was part of a series of private events that Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts (LCPA) was allowed to host in a deal it struck with the Bloomberg administration.   Lincoln Center had been renting out the park for private events for up ten months of the year.  They are also allowed to keep the money and divert it from the City's General Fund.   

On Thursday people filed into the Fashion Week tents in Damroach Park for the last time. 

By Sunday an aluminum frame was all that remained from the main entrance to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week located at Damrosch Park's Northeast side. 

Private events in Damrosch Park will now be the exception not the rule according to the far-reaching settlement reached in December between plaintiffs. 

In May 2013 plaintiffs, including NYC Park Advocates, Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, the founder of Friends of Damrosch Park and other individual neighborhood park users were forced to sue over the illegal use of Damrosch Park for non-park purposes in an effort to restore the park and return it back to the community.

One clueless fashion designer,  Nicole Miller, speculated a few days ago that the controversy was over area residents not being able to get taxis.

While the tents are being permanently removed plaintiffs and community representatives are still waiting for the Parks Department and Lincoln Center to comply with several key issues in the stipulation agreement more than two months after it was signed in December. 

• LCPA was supposed to provide CB7 and Plaintiffs with a copy of its annual January submission to the Parks Department listing proposed special events in Damrosch Park.  To date nothing has been received. 

• Planning for the Landscape Plan was supposed to begin in January 2015 but that has not been done as Lincoln Center is still looking for a landscape contractor.   LCPA and the Parks Department  are required to consult with and solicit comments from the Community Board prior to the spring 2015 planting season. During this period, LCPA will also, as part of its overall community relations program, consult with and solicit comments from a range of community organizations in the Lincoln Center neighborhood as well as with the plaintiff organizations, CESD and NYCPA.

The Parks Department and Lincoln Center were supposed to appear at Monday night's CB7's Parks Committee meeting but the item was removed from the agenda because the city and the arts group were not ready.  The reason -  Lincoln Center is still looking for a landscape contractor - three months after the settlement agreement. 

Over the weekend crews began dismantling the massive tents that illegally occupied Damroach Park for the past 5 years. 

Neighborhood groups are supposed to have meaningful input before spring planting begins, to date this has not occurred.  The next Parks Committee meeting is on March 16th.

"I am concerned any delays will leave planters with makeshift plantings thereby allowing for ongoing abuse by trailers and tents next season,"  said plaintiff Cleo Dana of Friends of Damrosch Park.

•  Under the terms of the settlement Lincoln Center will also be required to produce the secret  "sublicense" agreement between Fashion Week and Lincoln Center which lays out the financial arrangements. Lincoln Center received a $ 17.2 million dollar payday over five years which was diverted from the City General Fund.

•  As per the Stipulation Agreement LCPA was supposed to provide a cell number of an emergency contact person who would immediately respond to complaints in Damrosch Park. That never happened either.

A Fordham University student said that sound from Fashion Week could be heard throughout the dorms.

Cleo Dana said the noise on opening day of Fashion Week on Thursday, February 12th was deafening.

"The decibel level was outrageous." she said.  "My China was rattling on my table on the 26th floor a block away.  And as usual residents had no recourse.  It makes sense that they would have provided (the contact) before the event, but they didn't. These people don't care." 

Past complaints including noise,  illegal parking,  idling trucks,  and park destruction were routinely blown off by city officials.  

"When I complained in the past I was told it was a Mayor's event, parks rules do not apply," she said. 

"Neighbors are tired of calling 311and the 20th precinct with no results. I longer call 311, it's  a waste of time."

For weeks Cleo has been pressing various Parks Department officials to get answers, but those efforts have been fruitless.  

No more Mercedes-Benz allowed in the park. 

Attendees of Fashion Week in the seized parkland. 

On February 4th she wrote to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver's Chief of staff Margaret Nelson.  Nelson represented the Parks Department at a City Hall meeting between plaintiffs and defendants in December where she identified herself as "our future liaison contact," Dana said. 

Cleo wrote Nelson saying that she attended a Community Board 7 meeting weeks ago to inquire about the status of outstanding issues regarding the settlement agreement. At the meeting CB 7’s Parks Committee Chairman , Klari Neuwelt, assured her that, as per Plaintiffs’ request,  the “Landscape Plan” will be on the Committee’s Feb. 23rd Agenda. 

She asked Silver's chief of staff to "Kindly confirm that the Plan will be presented," along with providing Lincoln Center’s proposed special events for 2015. 

A couple of days later, on February 6th  Nelson responded saying,   "I will look into these requests and get back to you next week." 

She never did. 

A few days later Steve Simon, Chief of Staff for Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro called to say that Lincoln Center was “looking” for a landscape contractor and would not be able to present at the February 23 Parks Committee meeting.  

"The Plaintiffs and the community are understandably disappointed that two months after our Settlement Agreement, Lincoln Center is still looking to hire a Landscape Consultant," Cleo wrote to Steve Simon.

"We had assumed that Lincoln Center would present the preliminary mandated “Landscape Plan” at the February Community Board 7 Parks Committee meeting so that Plaintiffs and community organizations could have meaningful “input” before the forthcoming planting season.  As Fashion Week packs up for good, we need to know that serious planting will commence this spring to cover the rubble and barren planters left behind;  temporary cosmetic ”flowering plants”  as in past summers which can then be covered over by trailers and tents later in the year are not acceptable.

May I remind you that the Community Board has not yet received a "copy of its annual January submission to the Parks Department listing proposed special events in Damrosch Park for the coming calendar year” as also stipulated in our Settlement Agreement."

Dispite several requests seeking comment the Mayor's press office refused to acknowledge the requests and the Parks Department press office said they were too busy. 

Sign of the Times. 

February 19, 2015.  The Parks Department owned parking garage that Lincoln Center keeps 100% of the proceeds from remains covered from the tents.   

February 22, 2015.

The skeleton remains of Fashion Week are revealed as crews break down the tents.

The park's lone sign provided support to a Fashion Week tent.  On Sunday a worker leaned on it while colleagues removed equipment from the event.

 (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge 

Read More:

Fashion Week Ordered To Leave Lincoln Center - Park To Be Restored In Lawsuit Settlement  
A Walk In The Park - December 18, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

WABC - December 18, 2014 - By Tim Fleischer 

New York Daily News - December 18, 2014 -  By Barbara Ross 

New York Post - December 18, 2014 - By Natalie O'Neill and Julia Marsh 

New York Times - December 18, 2014 - By Robin Pogrebin   

Associated Press - December 18, 2014 -  By Leanne Italie  

Crain's New York Busness - December 18, 2014 - By Adrianne Pasquarelli 

AM New York - December 18, 2014 - By Ivan Pereira 

Metro NY - December 18, 2014

CNBC -  December 18, 2014 - By Krystina Gustafson

 New York Magazine -  December 18, 2014 - By Véronique Hyland 

gothamist - December 18, 2014 - Rebecca Fishbein  

 The Hollywood Reporter - December 18, 2014 - By Stephanie Chan

 WNBC - December 18, 2014

A Walk In The Park -  May 22, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park February 15, 2012 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - February 6, 2012

A Walk In The Park - September 10, 2010 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - September 11, 2010 - By Geoffrey Croft

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