Local Concerns Over a Big Event Venue Coming to BPC's Brookfield Place

The second-floor entrance to what will be Convene's two-level, 73,000-square-foot meeting and event space in Brookfield Place. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Aug. 24, 2019

“We don’t want to be the victim of your success.”

That’s how Tammy Meltzer, chair of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee, summed up local worries over Convene, a big new meeting and event venue coming Oct. 31 to Brookfield Place. With a capacity for 1,000-person events, Convene will occupy the two levels of the former Saks Fifth Avenue store at 225 Liberty Street.

The founders of the national chain, with 27 venues in six cities, appeared before the committee last month to explain their plans, and to try to calm concerns over the impact of large events on traffic and late-night neighborhood peace, especially as it could affect the 4,000 residents of nearby Gateway Plaza.

They are seeking to reverse the board’s decision last month to reject its liquor license application. The board maintained that it had been given too little information about the operations plans. 

“The issues of traffic flow and traffic volumes are very frightening,” said committee member Robin Forst. She maintained that adding many cars before 9 a.m. to an already congested part of Liberty Street would be “horrific.”

“That’s probably the single worst time for traffic in that section of Battery Park City,” she said.

“What we’re looking at is not having an Uber or Lyft line that’s double parked all along Liberty Street and Vesey Street,” Meltzer told them.

Ryan Simonetti and Chris Kelly, the Convene executives, said they do not anticipate the kinds of traffic tie-ups or bus parking that the committee fears.

“We can’t stand here today and say that we know exactly what the pattern of the traffic will look like,” Kelly said. But he and Simonetti noted that most people are expected to take public transportation to daytime events, and there will always be someone charged with managing traffic. The company, they said, will be working with ride sharing services on designating pickup and drop-off locations. Just where those will be is yet to be decided.

Simonetti and Kelly insisted that the venue’s legal capacity of 1,240 is far more than the number of people expected to attend events.  

“I think a lot of the angst is in a misunderstanding of actually what we do and how we intend to do it,” Simonetti said. “Especially around the size and scale of the things we’re doing.” 

The two largest rooms can accommodate 615 people, though many larger events are not expected to exceed 400, Simonetti said. 

“Could we fit a thousand people in the space by code? Yes we could,” Simonetti said. “Is that really what’s going to be happening there every day? No, not at all.” He said Convene would limit the venue to 10 1,000-person events per year and promised to return to the board for permission to do more. They also agreed to stop alcohol service at 10 p.m. and end events by 11 p.m.

CB1s Licensing and Permits Committee is expected to reconsider Convenes liquor license application next month when the company returns with more complete plans for handling traffic and other potential issues.