After two years in rather epic locations in Manhattan–Bryant Park and Lincoln Center, the pop-up Dîner en Blanc returned to the New York City waterfront last night at Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City, not too far from the World Financial Center where the dinner launched in 2011.
The wide park lawn fits more than it seems (the 2014 NYC Dîner en Blanc had an official guest count of 4,550) and has expansive views of the Empire State Building and the New Jersey coast. It’s also a site that has a lot more “Untapped” than meets the eye. The Irish Hunger Memorial, just near by, is a step out of time and place–explore winding, overgrown paths within this monument. You’ll also find a delightful Tom Otterness work in Nelson A. Rockefeller park itself, along with the columned pavilion architecture critic Francis Morrone called a “perfect thing” in its proportions and details. At tonight’s Dîner en Blanc, the pavilion fittingly served as the DJ booth–finally pushing Battery Park City from its more banal origins to the popular consciousness.
Every year, we’ve been privy to the behind-the-scenes planning of the Dîner en Blanc here in New York City and in Paris. And New York City presents a special challenge for the organization. First of course, there are the city laws revolving alcohol, gathering, permitting and more. Then there’s the tricky fact that a lot of the seemingly public spaces in New York City are run privately or by conservancies. Nelson A. Rockefeller Park is managed by the Battery Park City Conservancy. This means that every year, the organization faces new, specific challenges. Then there are New Yorkers themselves, who seem to demand rules for process but then are destined to want to break them.
This all makes for a magical evening, once it all comes together. Even the NYPD seemed bemused. From our gathering spot just adjacent to the World Financial Center, it was a 10 minute walk to the park which we did with 250 in our group. It was a spectacle in white, as guests carried their tables, chairs, food and table settings.
At 6:30pm, we entered the site with the sea of thousands. At 7:30pm, dinner commenced with the French table napkin waving tradition. By 8:30pm the dance floor was open and another magical night in New York City took place. Every year, it’s a little bit more of a party and the pavilion DJ set up was just asking for it to turn into a rave. But like any great Dîner en Blanc, everything is ephemeral.
Check out our timelapse video of the 2012 Lincoln Center Dîner en Blanc and check out photos from previous years of the Dîner en Blanc. Read about the history of the Paris Dîner en Blanc. To find out what her favorite Dîner en Blanc was, get in touch with the author @untappedmich.