At the 2015 New York City Dîner en Blanc this year, 5000 guests in white took over Pier 26 in Hudson River Park. Despite the fact that the location was geographically close to that of last year, in Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, there’s one very unique fact, as pointed out by Aymeric Pasquier, co-founder of Dîner en Blanc International: this was the very last event held on the empty Pier 26, before it’s converted into a mixed-use recreational facility.
Situated next to Pier 25, the longest pier in Hudson River Park and home to the LILAC Museum Steamship, the Tug Pegasus Waterfront Barge, and the Grand Banks sailboat oyster bar, the scene tonight was a study of past, present and future. The Dîner en Blanc served as a perfect transition event for Pier 26–ephemeral and collective, yet with a cross-section of New York residents who will soon visit the future pier.
As in all years, guests flowed in from all over Manhattan via subway or by foot. This was the largest dinner yet, but the structure of the event behind-the-scenes remains the same. Each invitee (whether a previous attendee, an invite of a previous attendee, or a guest off the 35,000 person waitlist, gets a designated meeting point. There, table leaders and group leaders ensure that things flow, though it was definitely a difficult site this year with only two entry points.
Chef Todd English, right who curated the picnic baskets again this year
Photo by Christina Traugott for Untapped Cities
As Gilles Amsallem, one of the New York City Dîner en Blanc organizers, states “Every year is a new challenge, is a new rules, new policies, new entertainment…we want people to be ‘oh, wow, it’s worth it to come again next year.'”
Thus, in this highly coordinated event, the pop-up nature is a bit more planned than might seem at the surface. From the meeting point, most guests hop on the subway and walk from another point to the site, but others in pedestrian groups walk directly from a location nearby.
Timed precisely, each group leaves their locations at a certain point in time so that all groups arrive on site within a certain time frame, in an order pre-determined, though with all things French, there has to be room for some improvisation. Also, in French culture, the start of dinner is extremely important–so even in a dinner of 5,000 the guests are asked to wait until a certain time before beginning to eat. At this point, napkins get waved, people get on chairs, and kick off the latest iteration of the Dîner en Blanc.
As we noted in our coverage of the original Paris Dîner en Blanc, the new generation has taken the event to the present era, with DJ and dance party breaking out not long after the dinner portion ends (along with a pre-planned afterparty at a club in Manhattan). Still, regulations require that the Dîner en Blanc end at about 10 (ish) pm, after which all the guests take everything they came with and disappear from the site.
Here are some additional photos: