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Fashion Week Hems in Noisy, Smelly Generators

By Leslie Albrecht | August 31, 2011 5:18pm | Updated on September 1, 2011 10:13am
Fashion Week organizers switched to
Fashion Week organizers switched to "biodiesel blend" generators for September 2011 Fashion Week.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — The glamour will still be high-wattage, but Fashion Week will use fewer generators to power its runway shows this season.

In response to neighbors' complaints about the noisy, smelly diesel generators that provided electricity for February's Fashion Week, event organizers IMG will use only six generators in September — down from nine last season.

Fashion Week, where the industry gets its first look at designers' upcoming collections, runs Sept. 8-15 at Lincoln Center. But setting up and dismantling the production takes more than a month, and nearby residents said generators created noise and fumes from January through late February for the Fashion Week that ran Feb. 10-17.

One neighbor described the experience as similar to having "several buses idling outside your window continuously, 24 hours a day, non-stop." Many of the generators are the size of 18-wheel trucks.

This season, IMG will set up six generators around Lincoln Center, mainly on West 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue. But it's likely only five of those will be used, because one won't be turned on unless back-up power is needed, an IMG spokeswoman said.

Organizers were able to eliminate two generators at Columbus Avenue and West 62nd Street altogether because Fashion Week is going to draw power instead from Fordham University's Lincoln Center Campus and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. IMG will pay Fordham and the Koch Theater for the electricity, a spokeswoman said.

A neighbor, Steven, who asked that his last name not be used, said he's already noticed a difference in the air thanks to the switch to electrical power from Fordham and the Koch theater.

"The diesel smell that was wafting through the air last winter is gone," he said in an email. "The conversion to electrical power at 62nd and Columbus has definitely made a difference in the air compared to last winter. It's unknown what the air will be like when they turn on the big generators in a few days, but there is a clear difference so far."

A third generator was eliminated by using one higher-powered generator in place of two lower-powered ones.

IMG is also switching to a "biodiesel blend" to fuel all of its generators, which previously had been run on 100 percent diesel, and upgraded to cleaner-running "Tier 1 and Tier 2" engines, which are considered state-of-the-art.

Organizers couldn't quantify exactly how much power is needed to run Fashion Week, but an IMG spokeswoman said the event — a light and music-filled spectacle in climate-controlled tents that draws roughly 100,000 attendees and 3,000 media professionals  — is akin to producing three Broadway plays simultaneously for seven days.

A spokeswoman noted that Fashion Week's previous generators met city codes, but IMG voluntarily upgraded its equipment because it wants to be a good neighbor to Upper West Siders. Fashion Week moved to Lincoln Center in September 2010 after 17 years at Bryant Park.

"We have been in constant communication with the Mayor’s Office, Con Edison of New York, and Councilmember Gale Brewer to address this issue, and are pleased with the upgrades we have proactively made this season," said IMG spokesman Zach Eichman in a statement. "We remain committed to being good neighbors and truly believe that our event has, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the surrounding community and local economy.”