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Locals Vote to Boot Fashion Week from Lincoln Center

By Emily Frost | June 6, 2012 1:36pm
Damrosch Park in March 2011, after bushes and a sign indicating that the park is a public park were removed.
Damrosch Park in March 2011, after bushes and a sign indicating that the park is a public park were removed.
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Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Upper West Side's community board voted to give the boot to Fashion Week — amid growing frustration by some locals who are angry the tents take over Damrosch Park behind Lincoln Center.

Community Board 7 voted 33-4 to push Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Parks Department to find a new permanent site for Fashion Week and to consult the board on any future agreements with Lincoln Center about its use. They also demanded the city restore the park to its former "vibrant" state.

“It looks like after a bomb hit,” said CB 7 member Elizabeth Starkey complained at Tuesday night's board meeting,  describing the way Damrosch Park looked after February’s Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week moved out.

The mayor's office and the Parks Department did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The 2.44 acre Parks Department green space — which was leased by the city to Lincoln Center in 2010 under a 10-year contract letting them use it for private events — has sparked a firestorm of controversy.

Critics say it's another example of private industry taking over public space, while fans argue the increased foot traffic and business is good for the Upper West Side.

“[Fashion Week] brings tremendous revenues to this neighborhood," argued board member Michele Parker, who opposed the resolution. "All of these people come and use the restaurants and shops. It is good revenue contribution. And it’s just twice a year. It’s four weeks out of the year."

Board member Lee Ping Kwan added, “Fashion Week does have a lot of intangible benefits. Fashion Week is like the Olympics, it gives the area a new aura."

But Fashion Week critic Gabriella Rowe said, “Not every business benefits when there are large crowds milling through the streets. Parents with families really need that green space.”

The resolution also calls for restorative landscaping that will bring the park up to the standard of other city parks and for the return of signage indicating Damrosch is a public park and not a private event space.

Board member Robert Espier was hopeful that before the next Fashion Week hits, the Parks Department will improve the park’s condition so that in the hot summer months, he and other locals can find respite there.

“It is excessively hot in Damrosch Park," he said. "You can’t just sit there with a book for a couple of hours. They’ve removed the shade."

The Parks Department chopped down 56 trees at Damrosch Park in the fall of 2010, reportedly to make room for Fashion Week, though agency officials had said the trees would have been removed regardless for Lincoln Center's redevelopment.