The lights went out early in Dumbo.
Organizers ended the New York Festival of Light ahead of schedule on Nov. 8 as crowds choked the Manhattan Bridge archway where nearly all of the show’s art was concentrated. The crowds on the last two nights of the three-night exhibition far exceeded organizers’ expectations, a rep for the festival said.
“In our wildest imagination we had no idea it would pull in so many people,” spokeswoman Linda Miller said. “It was our decision to close down. Something had to be done before someone got hurt.”
Would-be light-gazers slammed event management online, saying poor planning forced the crowd into an obviously ill-suited bottleneck — the archway, where most sculptures and projections were located — and that staffers gave confusing directions. Several social media users also noted that police closed the York Street F station to quell the crowding. The result, many agreed, was a total debacle.
“No organization, no direction, chaos of people trying to figure out where to go,” Christina Kirsch wrote on Facebook. “So let down when it was closed just when we finally figured out where we were.”
A police spokesman said the York station, which only has one two-way platform, filled to capacity and officers implemented “crowd control measures.” He declined to elaborate, but denied that they closed the station. He did confirm that there were a ton of people packed into the area, and said that the premature end of the event made matters temporarily worse.
“When the organizers shut the event down everyone flooded into York Street,” he said. “There was overcrowding everywhere.”
The exhibit opened on Nov. 6 with moderate attendance, but the head-count dramatically increased during the weekend. On Nov. 8, with an inkling of what kind of crowds were to come, Miller said organizers did their best to prepare for another swarm, including staggering admission to the archway.
But the measure was not enough to calm the chaos.
Miller said organizers were disappointed about having to close early, but she argued the huge numbers were a testament to the event’s appeal.
“What can I say? It was just too popular,” she said. “If we had any indication that we would be getting the amounts of people we did, then maybe there would have been measures taken. But this was really a testament to how much people appreciate light and wanted to have a festival of lights in New York.”