NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The fashion world has descended upon the city for the start of New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

But some residents held a protest Thursday morning, decrying the temporary loss of their open space in exchange for the large tents that will host runway shows.

The city granted a license to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to use Damrosch Park for fashion shows and other events, including Big Apple Circus performances. But protesters said the takeover of the park was a secret.

“Fifty-seven trees were destroyed, the famous Dan Kiley Gardens and their azaleas were torn out. So now we have a rubble that’s like the Berlin rubble,” Cleo Dana of Friends of Damrosch Park told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

“The park was destroyed. The criminal nature of the destruction is incomprehensible,” another protester told Diamond.

New York City Park Advocates has filed suit against the city, claiming it approved illegal use of park land.

“To put it very simply, Lincoln Center is being allowed to use Damrosch Park as an ATM,” New York City Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft told Diamond.

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Croft said the public park is taken over by private events for most of the year.

“This is disgraceful. The park is being seized for almost 10 months of the year. To add insult to injury, Mayor Bloomberg, a long-time board member of Lincoln Center, is allowing revenue generated from Damrosch Park to be diverted to Lincoln Center,” something Croft said is illegal.

City officials said Damrosch Park is a hard-surfaced plaza with a few visitors in winter.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runs through Feb. 14 and includes runway shows for designers like Kenneth Cole, Tory Burch and Rachel Zoe.

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