New York’s smoke leads to outdoor events being canceled

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The smoke has ruined a perfectly good night for outdoor activities in New York City. 

There won’t be a Yankees game. Blues legend Taj Mahal won’t be performing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to kick off its summer concert series. Lehman College in the Bronx postponed its gala.

And the 800 guests that were expecting to gather in Bethesda Terrace in Central Park for samples from some 40 restaurants are also out of luck. The Central Park Conservancy canceled its annual “Taste of Summer” fundraiser on Wednesday afternoon as an ominous orange fog engulfed Manhattan. 

“The purpose of this event is to enjoy the thrill of being with friends, outside in a stunning setting,” Betsy Smith, the conservancy’s CEO, wrote guests in an email. “The current environmental situation severely compromises that event experience.”

It’s a surprising turn after years of outdoor events being among the safest as the dense city battled the Covid pandemic. In this case, heavy smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted into the metro area, making New York’s air quality among the worst in the world.

Some nonprofits’ events are going ahead — inside. 

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts will move check-in indoors for its benefit for the real estate industry and plans to distribute masks, according to a spokeswoman. 

It was a different story Tuesday night, when New Yorkers first noticed the deteriorating air quality.

The Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden went on as planned, partly in its outdoor sculpture garden. Attendees included Dan Sundheim of D1 Capital Partners and billionaire hedge fund founder Eddie Lampert.

And the Brooklyn Botanic Garden held its fundraiser entirely outdoors on Tuesday as well — with smoke an unanticipated guest. 

“The smoke moved in just as we were starting,” said Adrian Benepe, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and former commissioner of the city’s parks and recreation department. “The sun suddenly was this orange orb in the sky, very eerie. It was more of a curiosity, it wasn’t frightening. I don’t think we understood then what we understand today.”

Benepe and staff closed the garden Wednesday afternoon. In his 65 years living in New York City, and decades working for parks, he said this event was singular. 

“People confronted with apocalyptic events in New York go to the parks for solace — we’ve never had something like this where you can’t find solace in nature,” Benepe said. Now “it’s actually worse to be outdoors than indoors.” 



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