Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Word on the Street in NYC

By Shelley Levitt

The Lounge at the New York Marriott Marquis offers panoramic views of Times Square.

Marriott International

Group business is booming in New York City. According to NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs, the demand for meetings, conventions, and events in the city is strong. The Javits Center experienced a 14% increase in bookings from September through December 2022 compared to the same period last year, and group room nights estimated at nearly 800,000 at the end of 2022.

“We are pleased to say that New York City’s meetings industry is right on track,” says Fred Dixon, NYC & Company’s president and CEO. “With a busy conventions and events calendar and hotel performance consistently trending over 85% occupancy once again and more than 10,000 new rooms in the pipeline, we are confident in the continued comeback of the business travel sector.”

Jerry Cito, NYC & Company’s executive vice president of convention development, agrees. “As the meetings sector continues to rebound, the city is seeing the addition of world-class hotels and event venues, robust offerings from Broadway, [and] attractions and museums across all five boroughs. There is certainly no better time to book a meeting, event, or convention in New York City for those ‘only-in-NYC’ meetings experiences that planners can create for their clients.”

Here is an overview of what’s new in New York City.

Renovations and Debuts, from Modest to Opulent

The nearly 2,000-room New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square underwent a massive $134 million renovation. This transformation includes what the property describes as its “next-gen meeting spaces.” The more than 110,000 square feet of modern meeting and event space includes the Broadway Ballroom, with the largest ballroom stage in the city, and the Terrace on the hotel’s ninth floor—a dramatic open space under a soaring atrium, connecting the Marquis Ballroom to the Jolson, Cantor, and Barrymore rooms. And the service is next-gen, too.

Chris Pirie, the hotel’s destination sales executive, points to a recent large-scale non-fungible tokens (NFT) conference held on the property. “We really boosted our speed of service on food and beverage with pop-up coffee shops and lots of grab- and-go boxed options,” he says. “Attendees were working and meeting in small groups throughout the conference, and they didn’t want to stop for sit-down meals.”

Dining room at Zou Zou’s in Pendry Manhattan West

Pendry Manhattan West

A few blocks from the New York Marriott Marquis is the newcomer, Hard Rock Hotel New York. As the flagship for the Hard Rock brand, the property has 446 guest rooms and over 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The Venue on Music Row is a bilevel entertainment space equipped with a jumbo LED screen for hybrid meetings and has a capacity of 400. Groups can mingle at an indoor-outdoor cocktail party at RT60 Rooftop Bar & Lounge, an expansive bar on the 34th floor that has two outdoor terraces spanning just over 3,000 square feet. Other notable event spaces include the 3,233-square-foot Rock Star Suite, a specialty suite with floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive views of the city skyline; the 2,324-square-foot Sessions Restaurant & Bar in a light-soaked atrium; and the 1,812-square-foot NYY Steak, a refined steakhouse characterized by its Mozambique wood walls, antique bronze-mirrored ceilings, and blue-velvet seating.

For team bonding, groups can take advantage of Breakout, Hard Rock’s state-of-the-art performance facility. Immersive offerings include Learn to DJ, silent disco sessions, and Spin Art Sta- tions, where attendees can create their own vinyl artwork using real LPs with custom labels to commemorate their meeting or event.

Other new hotels include the 180-room Wall Street Hotel, with over 6,500 square feet of elegant event space; the 250-room Ritz-Carlton, NoMad (NoMad refers to the neighborhood just north of Madison Square Park), with a ballroom that can accommodate 283 guests; the posh Aman New York, which sits on Fifth Avenue just below Central Park and includes 83 suites; and the 221-room Radio Hotel in Washington Heights. Pendry Manhattan West, which is a short walk from the Javits Center and Penn Station, offers 164 stylish guest rooms, over 6,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces, and several restaurant concepts that are worth a visit even if you are not housing your group at the hotel. Zou Zou’s, for example, offers modern Mediterranean cuisine in a vibrant and colorful, high-ceilinged space anchored by a wood-fired hearth in the open kitchen.

For an island getaway that you can reach via the F train, ferry, or tram, consider the Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel. The 224-room property, which sits between Manhattan and Queens on the namesake island, offers 3,800 square feet of flexible event space, with an additional 15,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space at the adjacent Verizon Executive Education Center. Graduate Roosevelt Island offers creative wellness activities for meeting attendees, either during breaks or in customized classes, with options that include sound baths, “aromatic journeys” through essential oils, and fragrance blending classes.

The Panorama Room at the Graduate Roosevelt Island

Steve Freihon Photography

A Surge in Stand-Alone Meeting Space

With remote work here to stay and many New York companies shrinking their office footprint, there’s a pressing need for an alternative to in-house conference rooms where workers can gather for a board meeting, training session, or brainstorming summit. The company etc. Venues is stepping in to fill this void. The London-based operator of urban nonresidential event venues opened meeting spaces at 360 Madison Avenue in March 2020 and at 601 Lexington Avenue in June 2021. In January, etc. Venues will open its third space a few blocks north of Times Square at 810 Seventh Avenue, offering seven meeting spaces across the building’s 22nd and 23rd floors, with the largest room able to accommodate up to 140 theater-style.

New Attractions Engage and Amaze

New York is home to world-class museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art—to cite a few. Now, some new cultural institutions are joining these esteemed ranks. The Museum of Broadway creates an interactive and Instagrammable experience of Broadway’s history. “You walk the timeline and then you end up in the middle of a show that changed the future of Broadway,” Julie Boardman, the museum’s co-founder says.

In Soho, the Jackie Robinson Museum chronicles the baseball legend’s trailblazing career and contributions to the civil rights movement. Also in lower Manhattan, housed in a beaux-arts landmark building, Hall des Lumières is a permanent center for custom-designed immersive art experiences. The inaugural exhibition is “Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion,” a journey through the revo- lutionary art of the acclaimed Viennese painter. The stunning 30,000-square-foot, two-level venue is available for private events, including seated dinners for up to 500 and cocktail receptions for as many as 1,500 guests. The venue’s sophisticated audio and visual capabilities offer bespoke branding opportunities.

Main gallery at the Jackie Robinson Museum

NYC & Company

A Bite of the Big Apple

There is a wide array of culinary options to choose from in one of the world’s greatest food cities.

Luckily, the destination services team at NYC & Company can help you zero in on the eateries that align with your group goals, interests, and budget. One new group-friendly spot to keep in mind is Pebble Bar, which occupies three levels of a 19th-century townhouse near Rockefeller Center. The top floor of the townhouse is Johnny’s, an event space accessible only by private elevator, and available for daytime meetings, post-conference cocktail receptions, or a late-night after-party.

Another popular option is Manhatta, which recently reopened after closing at the beginning of the pandemic. Perched on the 60th floor of 28 Liberty Street in the Financial District, the dining room offers elevated dishes like grilled lobster and barbecued freshwater eel with bone marrow while the fare is more casual in the bar (burgers, a pretzel version of an everything bagel, and cocktails named after New York City neighborhoods). Manhatta is open for events, with private dining rooms to accommodate up to 40 guests, a ballroom to host 250, or a buyout of the 60th floor for 625 guests.

Too little time and too many dishes to try? A walking food tour is a great way to experience the city’s diverse culinary scene while attendees have a chance to meet and mingle. Food on Foot Tours and Williamsburg Bites Brooklyn Food Tours are just two of the many companies that can arrange private group tours.