Live Nation Entertainment, which also owns Ticketmaster, will program the Pier 17 Rooftop Concert Series, which will he held at the 1.5-acre, open-air venue atop the pier, where construction is now nearing completion. A statement from Live Nation promises that, “the concert series will bring elite artists to New York’s newest entertainment destination.” The announcement also boasts that the rooftop space will accommodate an audience of 3,400 standing guests, while also having room for 2,400 seated patrons.
By 2015, this plan had grown to include a permanent metal and glass canopy that would cover the entire 40,000-square-foot roof, allowing for much large concerts, throughout the year.
The planned concert venue on the roof of Pier 17 has aroused concerns from area residents because of the potential for noise, crowding, and other quality-of-life impacts. It has also been controversial because the rooftop was originally described as a park and neighborhood amenity when the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) was attempting to build support for redevelopment of the South Street Seaport, nearly a decade ago. But, as Paul Goldstein, chair of the Waterfront, Parks, and Resiliency Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) said at the Board’s February meeting, “EDC later came back and said, ‘everything has changed and we’ve given your park away for concerts.'”
In recent months, the Howard Hughes Corporation has assured area residents that a high-tech sound system will prevent unwanted noise from reaching nearby apartment buildings, but this has been greeted with considerable skepticism.
After the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to approve the 2015 plan, HHC in 2017 created a new vision for a “temporary” canopy that could be raised and expanded during events, then lowered and folded into itself when not being used. By this time, plans the concert venue had grown to a space that can accommodate more than 6,000 people.
These criticisms stem, in part, from the ongoing evolution of the HHC plan for Pier 17’s roof since 2012. The original iteration of HHC’s vision for the rooftop was for a pavilion that could hold a maximum of 600 people, alongside a smaller restaurant.
Each year since 2012, however, new rendering and documents filed with the City have increased the size of the events venue, and some have been tantamount to requests to increase the height of the building, as well.
David Sheldon, a member of the Save Our Seaport (SOS) neighborhood preservation group, notes that, “protection of the commitment for public open space is a concern for SOS. In 2012, CB1 was told that there would be 40,000 square feet of public access on the rooftop. Now we learn that there will only be a public corridor around the indoor restaurant and patio totaling 10,000 square feet. Additionally, the ‘privatized’ portions of the rooftop will only be made available for no rental charge to a community based organization — such as the PTA of the neighborhood school or a youth center — up to four occasions a year.”
A 2010 concert at Pier 17 was expected to draw an audience of 6,000, but more than 20,000 showed up. When police ordered the event cancelled for safety reasons, the crowd rioted.
These concerns were anticipated in 2013, by then-CB1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes, in testimony before the City Council, when she said, “public spaces of Pier 17 should not become de facto private space. The public should have access to the roof at a variety of times of the year, week, and day. For example, the roof should not be rented out to the private sector every Thursday through Sunday from Spring through Fall.”
These concerns have been spurred by memories of a 2010 concert at Pier 17 (in which Live Nation Entertainment played no role) that went badly awry. An audience of 6,000 was expected, but more than 20,000 showed up — leading police to order the event’s abrupt cancellation. This sparked a small riot that included enraged fans throwing bottles and chairs, while breaking into fistfights, which resulted in six injuries and multiple arrests. The crowd dispersed only after police armed with batons and mace waded into its center, as two NYPD helicopters hovered overhead, sweeping the area with spotlights.
Live Nation Entertainment operates more than 200 music venues around the world. In the New York area, it produces concerts at the Bowery Ballroom, the Mercury Lounge, Irving Plaza, the Gramercy Theater, and the Warsaw Club. But the local venue operated by Live Nation Entertainment that most closely parallels the Pier 17 rooftop is the Ford Amphitheater, on the Coney Island Boardwalk — and outdoor arena that seats 5,000 guests.
|A 2010 concert at Pier 17 was expected to draw an audience of 6_000_ but more than 20_000 showed up. When police ordered the event cancelled for safety reasons_ the crowd rioted.|
The company also owns and produces the Governors Ball Music Festival, which draws an audience of more than 100,000 to Randalls Island each June. (On the national and global stages, the company also produces the annual Lollapalooza Festival.) The size of the crowds that congregate at Live Nation Entertainment events may also be a potential source of anxiety for a community that has more than once been struck by terrorists. It was at a Live Nation Entertainment show that a bomber detonated a shrapnel-laden explosive at the Manchester Arena in England last May, killing 23 and injuring more than 500. And Live Nation Entertainment was also the producer of the Route 91 Harvest country musical festival in Las Vegas last October, at which 59 concertgoers were killed and more than 800 injured when a gunman opened fire on the crowd.
While no one has credibly alleged that Live Nation Entertainment bears any responsibility — even indirectly — for these tragedies, the vulnerability created by inviting huge throngs to gather in open spaces within a community that remains a target for violent extremists may yet prove to be an impediment for plans to stage large concerts on the roof of Pier 17.