Showing posts with label Reed Super. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reed Super. Show all posts

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fashion Week Ordered To Leave Lincoln Center - Park To Be Restored In Lawsuit Settlement

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 constitute an illegal alienation of Damrosch Park in violation of the New York State Public Trust Doctrine and other laws.     (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge)

Fashion Week, and other events like this are now prohibited from returning to Damrosch Park under a court ordered setlement.  The park, much of it destroyed to make way for private events, must also be restored. 

“Parks is thrilled to welcome Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to its new, larger, home in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center,”  - Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe 2010.

Thankfully the new administration does not share the same irresponsible view.


Fashion Week will have to find a new home after February.

Private events in Damrosch Park will now be the exception not the rule according to the far-reaching agreement negotiated between plaintiffs, Lincoln Center and the City over the illegal use of Damrosch Park for non-park purposes.   

The settlement prohibits any possibility of Fashion Week renewing its contract with Lincoln Center, as contemplated in the original 2010 agreement.  A five-year renewal would have allowed the fashion show to stay until 2020.  Fashion Week's permanent home in Hudson Yard's Culture Shed is still years away.   

Now Fashion Week will have to find an interim home, away from city parkland,  until thier new home is completed. 

"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.

Where's The Park. Damrosch Park's Northeast Entrance/Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week's Main Entrance.  This event like others have been allowed to completely take over the 2.4 acre park. "I was horrified to learn about the demise of Damrosch Park. It is ironic that a family of German immigrants, who brought so much to the musical life of this city and this country have been pushed aside by a German manufacturer of flashy cars." - Sidney Urquhart, granddaughter of Walter Damrosch.

The settlement includes language to prevent commercial, non-park purpose uses in the future.

"....the City and LCPA (Lincoln Center Performing Arts) intend to further expand public access to the Park by not entering into agreements for commercial events substantially similar in natures, size and duration to Fashion Week and for which access is not generally available to the public," the settlement states.

Under the Bloomberg administration the City allowed Lincoln Center free rein over Damrosch Park with no limitations on the number of private events it could hold in the public park. 

In May 2013 the 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 in an effort to restore the park and return it back to the community.

The park had been taken over for up to ten months of the year by private revenue generating non-park use events according to the suit.

As a deterrent to any future events like Fashion Week the settlement contains language that allows the presiding judge, Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan to issue a Temporary Restraining Order in the event Lincoln Center attempts to use the park for something like that again.   

Under the terms of the settlement Lincoln Center will also be required to produce the secret agreement "sublicense" 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.  

The public including the City's Comptroller were not privy to the agreement on the public park.  All future sublicense agreements for special events must also be produced.   

Access Denied.  A private security guard prevents the general public from entering a private event held in Damrosch Park on May 9, 2013, one of dozens of events held annually inside the public park.  Additionally, the Bloomberg administration also allowed Lincoln Center to divert all the consession revenue from the City's General Fund. The revenue from the city's July 2010 license agreement with LCPA collected totaled more than $32 million dollars over a four year period alone. 

The park's planting beds with magnificent azaleas were all destroyed for private events. Plantings are required to be restored under the settlement. 

Not Open To The Public - Entrance By Invitation Only. Never again are events like this allowed to seize this public park.

The Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge inside what is supposed to be a public park.

Public Park? The convention center-like atmosphere inside Damrosch Park for Fashion Week.

The City and Lincoln Center are required to restore much of the park including replanting trees and flora destroyed to make way for Fashion Week.  The City famously allowed Lincoln Center to illegally destroy 57 trees to make way for the semi-annual fashion event.    

The settlement also requires the installation of an additional Parks Department sign near the northeastern entrance of the park for the first time.  Defendants even went so far as to remove the only sign indicating it was a public park. City rules must also be posted in the park for the first time.

"Damrosch Park belongs to the City of New York not Lincoln Center," said Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates, a plaintiff in the suit.

"The days of the Bloomberg administration's irresponsible policy of handing over public parks as cash cows for private groups and businesses are hopefully numbered.  We hope this settlement signifies a dramatic shift in policy and that parks across the city will finally be protected."

"It was outrageous and illegal," said Olive Freud president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a plaintiff in the case.

"It is environmentally unsound and harmful to the quality of life to allow a private for-profit organization to usurp a public amenity.  In our densely populated City of concrete and tall buildings the most important thing is to protect and cherish our public parks and open spaces. They are precious. 
Communities should not be afraid to fight.  This should be an example for the rest of the city. 

What Lincoln Center did was illegal and they should have been required to pay our legal fees, they made millions from this," she added.  

The Bosque. Since the park's opening in 1969, the granite benches - part of noted landscape architect Dan Kiley's (1912 - 2004)  original garden design -  have been an integral part of the park. They were removed for Fashion Week and area residents want them returned.  (Photo: Darial Sneed)

The granite benches were permanently removed and replaced by couches for an outdoor smoking and drinking area during Fashion Week.

"Almost 5 years ago I woke up to the sound of power saws and watched helplessly as our beautiful neighborhood Park was destroyed by the monstrous Fashion Week," said plaintiff Cleo Dana, Chair of Friends of Damrosch Park.

"We were devastated.  It was a gross injustice perpetrated on us by a misguided administration that valued mega-corporations’ profits over the public’s right to its own parks.   We are thrilled at the current settlement and that the Park will be rebuilt. It can never be the same but it will be wonderful to have the community sharing space together again."

The Parks Department and LCPA are also required to create a plaque - to replace the one mysteriously lost - to honor the contributions of Walter Damrosch and other members of the family to the city's musical life. 

"I was horrified to learn about the demise of Damrosch Park," said Sidney Urquhart, a granddaughter of Walter Damrosch, who attended the park's dedication on May 22, 1969 with several other members of her family.

"It is ironic that a family of German immigrants, who brought so much to the musical life of this city and this country have been pushed aside by a German manufacturer of flashy cars. (Fashion Week is sponsored by Mercedes Benz)

"As a fourth-generation member of the Damrosch family, I am so gratified that this beautiful little park that was created to honor their achievements and then woefully neglected and misused, will now be restored to its former glory."

Lincoln Center has denied the existence of the memorial flagpole with its bronze plaque honoring five members of the Damrosch family.

March 2010 months before 56 trees,  including all of the ones shown above,  were  destroyed in order to accommodate Fashion Week. The Parks Department then later tried to cover up the reason for the removel of the trees. Below a plywood platform replaced the trees which enabled event tents to be erected. 

The planting beds were replaced by a plywood platform. The NYCHA Amsterdam Houses can be seen directly behind the bandshell. 

Plaintiff Harold Smith has lived in the NYCHA Amsterdam Houses directly across the street for more than sixty-five years. He remembers the tenements and the 5 and 10 cent store on Amsterdam Avenue long before Lincoln Center and the park were built.  From his apartment as a teen he watched the city raze the buildings "brick by brick" they took to build the sprawling cultural campus.  

"I feel really good, this is a victory and we don't get many of those," Mr. Smith said of the settlement.   

"The park used to be so beautiful, the trees were so full. We got pushed aside for money-making purposes.  Since Fashion Week we haven't been able to go over there."

Mr. Smith, a musician who turned professional at age 14, said he feels most concerned for the seniors, the kids and a neighbor in particular in a wheelchair who have been shut out of their own park over the years.

"The older people are going to head back in there. They are so hurt,  they have such negative feelings towards Lincoln Center,  they feel trotted on. The people around here feel very disrespected like they don't matter.  They'll believe the park is open when they see it. They don't trust them."  

Two Outstanding issues

Since Fashion Week the Big Apple Circus has also been allowed to take up the park's entire 2.4 acres for more than four months annually including the fall, one of the most desirable seasons.  Area residents want at the very least part  of the park to be re-opened during the circus. 
City Charter - Section 109 

Another outstanding issue not resolved in the suit is the city's policy of allowing the money generated from Damrosch Park to be diverted to Lincoln Center.  

City Charter section 109 requires that all revenue of the city be paid into the general fund. The city's policy of allowing certain groups to divert these revenues creates enormous disparities that needs to be addressed.   These types of arrangements also exist in Bryant Park and the High Line, among others.
The License Agreement between the City and LCPA for instance provides absolutely no compensation to the City and instead allows all of the revenue generated from Damrosch Park to go to LPCA in order to “provide a substantial revenue stream”  for them.

From 2006-2010 alone, LCPA’s Revenues and Expenses Reports show  that revenues from LCPA’s “Special Events” and “Concessions” totaled more than $29 million dollars - the garage located under Damrosch Park,  which is owned by the Parks Department,  alone grossed more than $26.7 million,  all of which was paid to LCPA and none to the City. 

The Bloomber-era Licence Agreement goes even further to protect the fiscal interests of LCPA at the expense of the City: “[The Parks Department] agrees that it shall not impose any fee, charge, or other imposition on either LCPA or Special Event Promoters engaged by LCPA in connection with Special Events held in the Public Areas.”

In addition to these amounts under a separate agreement, Fashion Week’s sponsor IMG Worldwide, is paying up to $17.2 million to LCPA to use the city park twice a year. This money is also being diverted from the city's general fund. The agreement between LCPA and IMG Worldwide, did not go through the City Comptroller’s Office.  

Plaintiffs were represented by the Super Law Group, LLC. 

A private security guard attempts to prevent the park from being photographed from Amsterdam Avenue during the setup of Fashion Week.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)  Click on images to enlarge)

Read/View More:

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 VĂ©ronique 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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Judge Stops Union Square Restaurant Plan

The Union Square Park Pavilion. The Union Square Partnership BID and the Bloomberg Administration are pushing a plan to convert the historic building into a high-priced restaurant while the community is fighting for it to be used for desperately needed play space for children and other free community uses. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.


A New York State judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the City and Parks Department from moving forward with plans for a controversial high-priced restaurant in Union Square Park without State legislative approval.

“…defendants are hereby restrained from altering the Union Square Park Pavilion to accommodate a restaurant and/or bar, from granting any further approvals to do so… and from actually operating a restaurant and/or bar in the Pavilion,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur F. Engoron wrote in his January 8, 2013 decision.  

In issuing his decision the judge ruled that the plaintiffs would likely prevail in its case because the proposed Pavilion bar and restaurant will not serve park purposes and therefore constitutes an illegal alienation of parkland.

The suit was filed in May 18, 2012.

“We hope this decision once and for all knocks out the Union Square Partnership/Bloomberg Administration’s irresponsible plan to build a restaurant at the expense of the children and the community,” said Geoffrey Croft, a plaintiff and board member of The Union Square Community Coaliltion which brought the suit.     

"We hope the City will accept this decision and not continue to force a non-profit to spend its resources to fight this careless plan. The historic Pavilion should be returned for the purposes for which it was built and now more than ever desperately needed.”

The strongly worded opinion granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and denied the City's motion to dismiss.  The judge took into consideration the small size of the park and the high number of dining choices available in the area.

 “Here, plaintiffs have proved beyond a peradventure of a doubt that a restaurant is not necessary to insure that park participants do not go hungry or thirsty,” Justice Engoron wrote.

 “…on all the available evidence, plaintiffs’ claim that defendants ‘are attempting to create a high-end destination restaurant, as opposed to a public amenity that will serve ordinary park visitors,’ rings true.  The Pavilion restaurant’s proposed prices would make broad swaths of the public think twice before entering.” 

“All things considered, including the small size and large crowds of Union Square Park; the commercial character of the encircling neighborhood; the plethora of nearby restaurants of every description just beyond its perimeter; the prominence and importance of the Pavilion; the restricted views therein; and the operating hours and prices to be charged by the proposed restaurant, and based on the record at this stage of the litigation, this Court finds that plaintiffs likely will succeed in proving that the proposed restaurant would be ‘in’ the park, but not ‘of’ the park, would be a ‘park restaurant’ in name only, and would not serve a ‘park purpose.’” 

June 28, 2012 - Mommy & Me Yoga inside the historic pavilion.  

The community has long fought to use the covered Pavilion as it was originally intended, for children and community uses.  The community wants the Pavilion renovated and restored to its former uses which include a sheltered, indoor recreation center that serves a variety of year-round recreation and free public uses. 

In March the city quietly approved a new fifteen-year deal with Chef Driven Market, LLC. – the owner of a number of high-end restaurants – to build a controversial restaurant with upscale prices in the Children's Pavilion in Union Square Park.  A previous deal collapsed in September.

Critics of the plan say despite vehement community opposition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Union Square Partnership (a Business Improvement District or “BID”) are attempting to take away thousands of square feet of potential recreation and community space for six months of the year in order to accommodate a seasonal restaurant.

The area around Union Square Park has the lowest amount of playground space but the highest concentration of restaurants in the entire city.  In Community Board 5 there are only two playgrounds, but there are more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within just a two-block radius of the park.  

Critics also charge that allowing the Pavilion to be converted into a seasonal restaurant will dramatically alter the Park's historic first amendment and free speech uses.

“We are very pleased with the Court's decision recognizing that USCC is likely to prevail on all of its main arguments,” said Reed Super, of Super Law Group, LLC, lead counsel for the plaintiffs.  “In denying the City's motion to dismiss and granting provisional relief, the ruling allows our lawsuit to proceed and blocks the restaurant concession in the interim.  We look forward to a final decision in this public trust case and to the return of the community's Pavilion to park use.”  

"This is great news," said New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and plaintiff in the suit. 

"The community has fought long and hard to have this unique pavilion restored and returned to the people. Moving forward we hope the administration finally abandons its commercial restaurant plans and allows this historic space to be used exclusively for free public uses for children and the greater community."   

Tango On The Square.  Rain or shine the free summer series welcomes seasoned and beginners alike at the the newly renovated pavilion. 

“Great news.  This decision recognizes the Pavilion's historic use as a recreation site for children,” said former City Council member and plaintiff Carol Greitzer.  “We hope the Parks Department will now work with us to restore the too-long-idle Pavilion to its historic role.”

“Hooray!  Judge Engoron’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the city in our litigation is a victory for our children and community,” said plaintiff Eadie Shanker. 

“The community's eight-year campaign to fight against the city’s effort to privatize the historic Pavilion in Union Square Park is energized by Judge Engoron’s larger view of the ‘crass’ commercialism that already exists in the park and the use of the Pavilion for dining and a bar when an excess of such ‘refreshment’ establishments surround the park.  He found ‘highly persuasive’ our vision for multiple community uses of the Pavilion that would be displaced by a commercial restaurant operating from 7 a.m. to midnight every day of the week.  His point-by-point arguments in favor of our case validates why we fight.”

The judge also questioned whether the City's 15-year license with Chef Driven Market was legal;  “In the final analysis, the Concession Agreement appears to be a lease masquerading as a license,” the court wrote.

The judge also suggested that the plaintiffs would also likely prevail in its claim that the Holiday Market, which takes park land in the Southern part of the Park must also get State legislative or court approval, stating that the Holiday Market is “more like an outdoor Walmart on Black Friday than dedicated parkland.”

The judge also called former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe’s description of the park as tranquil “dubious.”  “When one thinks of Union Square Park, ‘tranquil’ is not the first word that comes to mind,” the judge wrote. 

July 27, 2012 - NY Portuguese Short Film Festival annual Summer Night Series, a bi-monthly screening of Portuguese cinema presented free in the Union Square Park pavilion includes music, lectures, performances and the arts. 

Read More:

New York Times - January 10, 2013 - By Marc Santora

New York Observer - January 9, 2013 - By Jane Gayduk 

Court puts kibosh on Union Square Park restaurant and puts popular holiday market in peril 
New York Daily News - January 9, 2013 -  By Barbara Ross and Ginger Adams Otis

New York Post - January 10, 2013 - By Julia March 

gothamist - January 9, 2013 - By Garth Johnston

The Wall Street Journal via Associated Press

A Walk In The Park - March 14, 2012  - By Geoffrey Croft