Fashion Week ousted from Lincoln Center over cut trees

Thursday, December 18, 2014
New York Fashion Week kicked out of Lincoln Center for cutting down trees in public park
Tim Fleischer has why New York Fashion Week organizers are looking for a new home.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York Fashion Week is a clothing industry's extravaganza that brings in nearly $1 billion in tax revenues. But now, organizers are looking for a new home.

They have been kicked out of Lincoln Center because they cut down trees in a public park to make room for their stuff.

Their ousting is seen as a major victory by those who have fought for the restoration of Damrosch Park, which runs alongside Lincoln Center.

The Friends of Damrosch Park, NYC Park Advocates and other groups challenged the use of the small Upper West Side park for events, which are now prohibited under a court-ordered settlement.

"Fashion Week can no longer return," said Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Park Advocates. "The events have to be very limited in scope, and the private events are going to be the exception and not the rule."

The settlement, according to those who brought the lawsuit, also says the city and Lincoln Center will expand public access to the 2.4 acres of the park by not entering into agreements for commercial events where the public is not generally allowed.

"Public trust division doesn't permit a commercial purposes of a park," said Cleo Dana, of Friends of Damrosch Part. "It has to be public and free to the public."

The park used to look much different, but the plaintiffs claim much of it was leveled to make way for the Fashion Week event. Olive Freud, president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, claims it was illegal.

"They cut down 57 trees and took all the benches away," Freud said. "There are a few trees left. It was very pleasant here."

Lincoln Center issued a statement on the settlement, saying, "We look forward to working closely with all concerned to envision the future of Damrosch Park, furthering it's already-active use as a public amenity, including free and low-cost concerts and educational events."

The settlement, park advocates say, also calls for the restoration of the park.

"I'm curious who's paying for it, but as of now we are just happy that it will be restored," Dana said.

"The city and Lincoln Center have to restore the park to back the way it was," Croft said. "And this is a big deal for people who live in this community."