New York Fashion Week will have to find a new venue next September as part of a settlement between the city and a park watchdog group, who sued the city over the organizer’s use of land at Lincoln Center.

The Parks Department agreed on Dec. 12 not to not renew its sublease next year with IMG Fashion, the organizers behind the 30-year event, for use of Damrosch Park during the biannual fashion week, according to court documents. The February fashion week will be the final time the event will be in Lincoln Center.

NYC Park Advocates and other plaintiffs contended that the city and Lincoln Center violated state public trust doctrine by limiting public access to the park during the fashion weeks, held in February and September, and removed greenery from the space.

“The city and [Lincoln Center]…recognize that special events that limit public access to substantially all of Damrosch Park should be the exception rather than the norm,” the settlement read.

During fashion week, organizers would set up large tents, a red carpet and other huge setups that took up the entire park.

The settlement essentially dictates that there cant be similar large-scale events at the park in the future.

Geoffrey Croft, the president of NYC Park Advocates, said there is no reason the city and organizers couldn’t find a space that doesn’t interfere with any park land in the city.

“They should never been able to enter into this deal,” he said of the city’s parks department. “Basically Lincoln Center used the park as an ATM.”

The city's law department didn't return messages for comment. IMG released a statement saying it will actively look for a new location in the city to host the event.
“Lincoln Center has been a great home for the past 5 years and we look forward to another world-class season this February,” the company said.

In addition to ending the sublease, the city agreed to plant new trees and possibly add planters above the 62nd Street garage entrance at Lincoln Center.

Lincoln Center said it was pleased with “the amicable resolution,” that it worked on with the city government and community board.

“We look forward to working closely with all concerned to envision the future of Damrosch Park, furthering its already active use as a public amenity for free and low-cost concerts and educational events,” it said in a statement. The city's Economic Development Corporation said it will assist organizers with their search.
Fashion week moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center in 2010 due to the growth of the number of exhibitors and shows. Elizabeth Caputo, the chairwoman for Community Board 7 which oversees the neighborhood, said many residents had problems with the traffic and noise and limited access to the park during the September and February events.

“We are really quite pleased with the decision,” she said.

Susan Scafidi, Founder & Academic director of Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, said the settlement was legally justified because the week did restrict park land. However, she noted that the community will lose out on some of the annual $900 million economic impact that fashion week generates for the city.

“It's a loss for sure, even though Lincoln Center already generates a lot of economic impact,” she said.

The challenge now is finding a new location, Scafidi said.

“It is limited, because there are so many shows during fashion week and attendees have to get to as many of them as possible,” she said. “It isn't logistically possible to spread them out across the five boroughs.”