Brookfield Place, where the owners plans to launch an event-hosting facility that will draw crowds of up to 1,000 people.
The owners of Brookfield Place, the giant office and retail complex in Battery Park City, are planning to launch an events venue that will host up to 1,000 people at a time, which has sparked concerns about traffic and crowding from community leaders.
At the June 5 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1), Mark Kostic, Brookfield’s Vice President for Asset Management, explained that Convene, a firm that develops and markets meeting rooms, event venues and flexible workspaces (and is partially owned by Brookfield) will be taking over the 86,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue, at 225 Liberty Street.
“Convene will be a great addition to Brookfield Place for a couple of reasons,” Mr. Kostic observed. “One is how workspace is changing, and Convene does a few things — they do co-working spaces, they do flex space, and they do events space.”
Brookfield’s Mark Kostic: “About 148 vehicles will come to an event that draws 1,000 people.”
At Brookfield, he said, “the space will primarily be an events space for multiple purposes, mostly corporate functions and cultural functions that we’re going to be partnering with them on. These are the events that will be open to the community Downtown.”
Because Brookfield holds an equity stake in Convene, he said, “when it comes to any challenges or issues with operation or logistics, we have a great working relationship. We’re very optimistic that that will have all these sorted out before they open,” a milestone that is slated for the fourth quarter of this year.
“We completed a study with Sam Schwartz Engineering,” a noted traffic management firm, Mr. Kostic continued. “And so when they were looking at how to calculate the surface traffic at South End Avenue and the turnaround, they came and formulated a lot of assumptions based on certain findings. And basically, we’re utilizing three different points of ingress and egress.” These points of entry and exit will be via South End Avenue and Liberty Street, along with Vesey Street, and the glass pavilion that connects to the pedestrian underpass and multiple subway lines in the World Trade Center and the Fulton Transit Center, he noted.
“Sam Schwartz was able to make some assumptions in terms of how people would be arriving,” Mr. Kostic related. “Most people will be coming from the immediate area of Brookfield Place or Lower Manhattan, so they estimated about 60 percent of those people will be coming from a walkable, area or by subway.” Another 30 percent, he predicted, “will arrive by car service or taxi, and then ten percent will driving.”
South End Avenue filled with tour buses and delivery trucks
Sam Schwartz Engineering assumed that each vehicle coming to an event at the new Convene facility would carry an average 1.65 passengers. This tabulates to “about 148 vehicles coming to an event that draws 1,000 people,” Mr. Kostic said, while also noting that the turnaround space in Brookfield’s cul-de-sac at Liberty Street and South End Avenue has space for 12 cars.
“So for a 1,000-person event, where a thousand people actually showed up, we would be slightly over capacity in the cul-de-sac, in which case, we need to have some sort of some sort of excess capacity onto Liberty Street.”
CB1’s Tammy Meltzer: “We’d like to give you the courtesy and to say we know you can do better. So we ask you to come back with a plan for the trucks, a plan for the busses, a plan for the overflow of cars. We’d love all this feedback before our July meeting, because we would like to be responsive to you and say ‘thank you,’ or file a resolution in protest. Whatever the case may be.”
Ms. Meltzer countered that more than 100 cars converging on the cul-de-sac at Liberty Street and South End Avenue within the space of an hour will result, “in cars backing up not only on Liberty Street, but also onto West Street,” and predicted that this would not only slow traffic, but also create a safety hazard for pedestrians. “So you’re going need to have crossing guards and people directing traffic.”
CB1’s Justine Cuccia: “Where in God’s name are all those cars they going to go, even if it’s just 50 cars. It’s going to be Liberty Street and it’s going to be West Street. You’re going to have 100 cars lined up on the West Side highway, blocking traffic.”
Justine Cuccia, who serves as co-chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, asked, “where in God’s name are all those cars they going to go, even if it’s just 50 cars? It’s going to be Liberty Street and it’s going to be West Street. You’re going to have 100 cars lined up on the West Side highway, blocking traffic.”
Robin Forst, a public member of the Battery Park City Committee, observed, “this ship has long ago sailed. But I have to say that as a business decision, I think this is absolutely the wrong kind of business to have at this location. We have spent much time over the last five to ten years talking about traffic congestion in Battery Park City. The BPCA has worked on this at great expense, and with a lot of time. And with more than 100 additional cars, I don’t care whether you can time them perfectly. You’re going to back up Liberty Street in both directions. They have to go in; they have to go out. You’re going to back up West Street. I don’t care that Sam Schwartz said there will be no impact on South End Avenue. That is absolutely not true. I think this is atrocious, potentially dangerous, and misguided.”
CB1’s Robin Forst: “I think this is atrocious, potentially dangerous, and misguided.”
Ms. Meltzer concluded the discussion by saying to Mr. Kostic, “we would also like to see you come back to the Community Board, with a traffic mitigation plan in place. What plan will you actually have in place, instead of waiting for something to happen?”
“Community Board 1 as a whole has experience with 25 Broadway and 15 Wall Street,” she recalled, in a reference to large event venues launched at those addresses in recent years by the Cipriani Group. “They were a nightmare during the startup. So we have experience of them opening in a residential neighborhood, and it hasn’t been pretty.”
“We’d like to give you the courtesy and to say we know you can do better than they have in opening up a place like this. So we ask you to come back with a plan for the trucks, a plan for the busses, a plan for the overflow of cars, and a backup plan,” for the eventuality that Brookfield’s valet parking facility on Greenwich Street might prove unfeasible. “A plan for how are people actually going to be directed to go there, with crossing guards. Anything that you and Convene can work out in advance where you say to us, ‘when there’s an event of 500 people, this is our protocol.’ That’s what we’re looking to see.”
Ms, Meltzer added, “we’d love all this feedback before our July meeting, because we would like to be responsive to you and say ‘thank you,’ or file a resolution in protest. Whatever the case may be.”