Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Residents Demand Damrosch Park Back - Cease & Letter Sent To City & Lincoln Center

Damrosch Park Convention Center. For ten months of the year - from mid-August through June - the Bloomberg administration allows Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) to rent out the 2.4 acre Damrosch Park to various clients including Fashion Week (above) as well as keep all the revenue. As justification for allowing the park to be illegally seized Bloomberg representatives keep trying to assert that it's alright to take a park for commercial purposes as long as it's during the Winter months. (Apparently the City doesn't realize that Winter doesn't last ten months.)
(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

As if that bizarre logic isn't enough the administration is also trying to justify the park's use by the private corporation by saying that the tens of millions of dollars being diverted from the city's general fund are going to maintain other areas of Lincoln Center. When it was announced that Fashion Week was moving from Bryant Park to Damrosch Park event organizers boasted they would have 30% more space. They have made good on that promise.

March 8, 2010. Damrosch Park in the Winter time. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

March 8, 2011. A Park Not Even In Name Only. Even the Parks Department sign with the iconic leaf logo identifying "Damrosch Park" was premananlty removed from the park when Fashion Week moved in 2010. Hundreds of bushes and 67 trees were also removed for the event leaving a barren landscape below.


While it may not have much name recognition, Damrosch Park is inextricably linked to a place that does: Lincoln Center. Nestled into the southwest corner of the center’s campus, the 2.4-acre park is the setting for free outdoor concerts in the summer, as well as a place where performers and neighborhood residents alike go to relax. At least they did, according to the New York Times.

Since 2010, when the New York Fashion Week shows moved to Damrosch Park from Bryant Park, residents say, Damrosch Park has been all but taken over by one special event after another, making it off-limits nearly 10 months of the year. Setup for the spring fashion shows, which take place in September, begins in August; those shows are followed by the Big Apple Circus’s annual show, which runs from mid-October to January; the fall fashion shows are held in February (this year’s end on Thursday); and then there are private parties, also under tents, throughout the spring.
“It’s an assault on the neighborhood,” said Michael Graff, a lawyer who lives in the nearby Alfred condominium tower. He had to shout over the din of generators along West 62nd Street that provided power to a series of white tents for the fashion shows.
On Tuesday, a group of residents and NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit group, announced that they had sent a “cease and desist” letter to the city and to Lincoln Center demanding that Damrosch Park be returned to its proper use as a city park.
City officials brushed aside the criticism, saying that Damrosch Park was a hard-surface plaza with few visitors in winter. They argued that residents had ample access to nearby parkland, including Central Park, and said that many thousands of New Yorkers were able to enjoy the circus and the fashion shows.
Residents, community activists and environmentalists gathered yesterday for a press conference in front of Damrosch Park's Northeast entrance which is blocked by the enormous two-story high Fashion Week facade and the event's main entrance. (Photo: Robert Caplin for The New York Times)

“Fashion Week generates $865 million in economic activity each year and helps create jobs in one of our city’s most important industries,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
A representative of Lincoln Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At a news conference on Tuesday outside Lincoln Center, Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, criticized the city over the terms of its agreement with Lincoln Center, which allows the center to keep all the revenue generated by subleasing the park to outside groups. Fashion Week alone will pay $17.2 million over five years to use the park, Mr. Croft said.
Lincoln Center is also allowed to keep the money from a city-owned parking garage beneath the park, said Reed W. Super, a lawyer representing NYC Park Advocates and several residents. From 2006 to 2010, the garage yielded $26.7 million, he said.
“It’s illegal,” Mr. Croft said. “According to the City Charter, all of that money has to go back to the city’s general fund.”

The Big Apple Circus takes over the entire 2.4 acre park each year from Ocotober to January. (Photo: Cleo Dana)

The group argues that the deal with Lincoln Center amounts to the removal of parkland, a process that only the State Legislature can undertake. The letter said that “whether, how and when any portion of a New York City park may be used for nonpark purposes are decisions to be made by the State Legislature, not the mayor, not the parks department and certainly not Lincoln Center.”
City officials defended the agreement with Lincoln Center, pointing out that the cultural institution was solely responsible for the upkeep of the park and paid to maintain other public areas on its campus, including the signature fountain in its plaza. Lincoln Center, Ms. Wood said, “has spent millions to improve these areas, create new green spaces and program them for public enjoyment.”
Residents and some members of Community Board 7 said that in the past they had not looked forward to the four-month takeover of the park by the Big Apple Circus, but that they had grown used to it. Their frustration mounted, however, when Fashion Week arrived.
“It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Susan Levy, a resident of the Alfred.

March 8, 2010. (before) The City destroyed 54 trees including these above in order to accomodate Fashion Week. Another 11 trees were supposedly transplanted elsewhere though the Parks Department has refused to disclose the locations.

March 19 2011. (After) Clear Cut.

March 8, 2010. (before) David H. Koch Theater in the background.

March 20, 2011. (After) Clear Cut. Trees and bushes removed to make room for commercail uses including projecting imaged of TV personalites on the wall of the Theater.
With the trees removed clients who rent the public park from Lincoln Center are now able to utilize the space for a variety of new exclusive private commercial events services like projecting 25 foot high images of TV actors on the David H. Koch Theater wall as the USA Network did during Upfront Event on May 2, 2011. "Network Upfront’s have begun. USA Network kicked off upfronts with their event held on May 2, 2011 at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center here in New York City and invited members of the press and advertisers to show off their character and help celebrated USA’s fifth year at #1.....

To make way for the Fashion Week tents, the city removed 67 trees from the park.
City officials say that many of the trees that were cut down were in poor health and that their roots were creating cracks in the ceiling of the parking garage. The city has planted 220 trees within a mile radius of the park, while Lincoln Center has installed an additional 88 trees on its campus.
But residents say that a tree half a mile away does not make up for the loss of shade and green in Damrosch Park. “Sadly,” said the letter to city officials and Lincoln Center, “Damrosch Park has been decimated. Even the parks department sign with the iconic leaf logo identifying ‘Damrosch Park’ was removed.”
Mr. Super, the lawyer for NYC Park Advocates, said that litigation was a possibility. “We prefer not to run right into court,” he said.

Park Purpose? Fashion Week is just one event the City is allowing to occupy Damrosch Park.

Read More:

New York Times - February 14, 2012 - By Lisa W. Foderaro

Report: Lincoln Center Residents Unhappy With Fashion Week Tents
WNBC - February 15, 2012 - By Laurel Pinson

A group of Upper West Side residents claim that Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center is being used illegally for runway shows and other events.
Crain's New York Busness - February 14, 2012 - By Adrianne Pasquarelli

Fashionista - February 15, 2012 - By Hayley Phelan

My Fox - Feburay 22, 2011 - By Linda Schmidt

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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