By Amanda Woods
Residents have long complained about the noise, removal of greenery and lack of access to Damrosch Park because of the many concessionaires that occupy the space throughout the year, all issues addressed in the Board’s resolution. And as locals see it, Fashion Week is the biggest culprit.
“These are problems that need to be solved right under the windows of working people at the Amsterdam Houses and heard beyond that immediate area,” said Mark Diller, the chair of Community Board 7. “There’s almost nothing left of what the community can use of Damrosch Park.”
Fashion Week moved from Bryant Park to Damrosch Park, a small corner of Lincoln Center’s campus, in 2010. Residents near Bryant Park once complained about the noise and crowding that Fashion Week brings; today, Damrosch Park locals are crying foul.
“It’s just a shame,” said Claudette Ekberg, who has lived near Lincoln Center for 50 years. “I try to avoid it because of all the hoopla going on.”
Gail Missener, a resident of the nearby Amsterdam Houses, is mostly concerned about the noise emanating from the park.
“Why do they have to be so loud? You’d think they’re playing for the deaf,” Missener said.
Along with Fashion Week, the Big Apple Circus and other concessionaires keep Damrosch Park abuzz 10 months out of the year. The park is operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation; in July 2010, it began a 10-year license agreement with Lincoln Center, which allows the Center to contract with third-party concessionaires to hold private, commercial events in the park. In its resolution, the Board recommended that residents should be able to have year-round access to the park.
Community Board 7 is also concerned that neither the license agreement between the city and Lincoln Center nor the agreements between Lincoln Center and its concessionaires were submitted to the Board for approval.
“A very important part of the public outreach is that they had no say in the seizing of their park, and this resolution speaks to that,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Parks Advocates. “It remains to be seen, of course, if the administration is going to continue to ignore the wishes and desires of the community.”
Council Member Gale Brewer conditionally approved the twice-yearly event finishing out the five years at the park and has maintained her support for the jobs that Fashion Week provides. However, the noise complaints must be addressed, she said, and residents must be able to get around while Fashion Week is in session.
“There is also an issue of making sure that there is access to the street,” Brewer said, adding that local residents are also inconvenienced by the nearby Fordham University construction. “If these issues are dealt with, I will not object to the five years.”
Brewer sent a letter in April to Mark Page, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, asking about the law regarding revenue generated from staged events at the park and whether there is an exception that allows the money to go to Lincoln Center instead of the city’s general fund. Page’s response noted that the issue is the subject of potential litigation and that he had forwarded Brewer’s concerns to the law department.
Diller said he values the board’s relationship with the Parks Department and the mayor’s office and that the Parks Department has made some efforts to replace the greenery that was removed to accommodate the concessionaires, but he thinks more still needs to be done.
“We hope the resolution will give us a platform to work together,” Diller said. “We understand that there are competing interests for this space. The benefits of that ought to be shared by the whole community.”
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