It seems like just yesterday that the international fashion week circuit was buzzing over the relocation of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center in 2010. Now, the uptown culture mecca is up in arms over the bi-annual event. Local residents of Manhattan's Upper West side, along with Damrosch family members and various environmental groups, have filed suit against Lincoln Center and New York City, demanding that the city gets rid of fashion week and other commercial events at Lincoln Center.
Those opposed to Lincoln Center's hosting of fashion's biggest event in New York City allege in the lawsuit that for 10 months out of the year, public access to Damrosch Park is limited because of commercial events. The roster of these intrusive events begins with fashion week in mid-August, but as soon as fashion week is gone the Big Apple Circus takes up residents from mid-October through January, just in time for February's New York Fashion Week to once again take over the property. In addition, the park is rented out for private events and fundraisers in the rare interim between these large commercial activities.
Even prior to New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, residents in the area were not happy about the commercial events situation at Damrosch Park. "[Fashion week] was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back," claims Susan Levy who lives nearby. "It's an assault on the neighborhood," said another neighborhood resident Michael Graff.
The lawsuit, filed by residents and environmental groups, says that the $32 million dollars generated from the city's license agreement (inked in July 2010) with Lincoln Center is not being allocated properly. Instead of putting the money earned back into New York City, they say, it is being siphoned off to Lincoln Center.
The suit also demands that any concession revenue from the park be paid into the city's general fund. NYC Park Advocates, naturally, are getting involved and support the vacancy of Damrosch Park. "These actions constitute an illegal alienation of Damrosch Park in violation of the New York State Public Trust Doctrine and other laws," the nonprofit watchdog group said in a release.
But will the lawsuit against New York City and Lincoln Center be enough to convince fashion week to relocate once more? If New York Fashion Week is not held at Bryant Park or Lincoln Center, where would the fashion event take place?
"The city is awaiting formal service of the suit and will review it carefully," said Kate O'Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department. "Fashion Week is an important part of the city's cultural and economic fabric, generating $865 million each year while also creating fashion-related jobs."