A Discussion with NYCSCC Co-Owner Tod Shapiro about NYCSCC’s New Suites and Refurbished Meeting Space at its Flatiron/Chelsea HQ
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tod Shapiro, co-owner of New York City Seminar and Conference Center, about their new offices and refurbished spaces, which encompass the 9th floor and lower level space (on the 24th Street side of the building) at 71 West 23rd Street. The Conference Center recently started operating out of its brand new 9th floor space and Tod was understandably excited to talk about what’s new and improved in their space, and what their customers can expect!What follows is an edited transcript of my discussion with Tod:
The New York City Seminar and Conference Center is a value technology conference center. We’re a specialty event venue that has been conducting business in the Flatiron District, Chelsea and NOMAD since 2004. Our speciality is hosting events of all types with a particular value for those who are interested in having technology as part of those events, or who are on a budget and can’t spend a lot of money on their event venue. Our clientele includes technology companies, startups, government (state and local agencies), local businesses that use us as a resource, a lot of coworking spaces, including WeWork and all of their various competitors - they typically don’t have meeting space, so they often come to us to run their events. We work very effectively with area hotels - a lot of the business-class hotels don’t have their own meeting space so they’re more than happy to send their clients to us.
We are also, as a conference center, an international venue. One thing that’s unusual about us is we’re heavily leveraged with the use of the internet and social media to advertise, market and promote our space. We get a lot of international business. Companies from abroad find us on the internet and can book and see our pricing - another unusual thing about us is that we list our full retail pricing for all of our rooms on a per-day, per-event, per-hour basis. You can book and arrange your meetings almost entirely over the internet without having to deal with brokers or go back and forth with sales people at various event venues.
The conference center has been a regular Flatiron/Nomad/Chelsea presence for 16 years. As part of signing a new lease and recommitting ourselves to the neighborhood, we signed a 15-year lease extension at 71 West 23rd Street, which is where we’ve been since 2004. We’re very happy to do because we’re very much part of the neighborhood, people know who we are, we have interns, we have local businesses of all types who count on and rely on us as a resource to do their meetings and conferences and events. A lot of our staff live right in this neighborhood. We were happy to reach an agreement with our landlords, the trustees of the Masonic Hall, who have been great in that regard.
We recently moved from the 5th floor of our building to the 9th floor, while keeping our lower level space. The price was right and the rooms are no-nonsense kind of rooms. With all of our experience, and the comments and suggestions from clients during the time we’ve been in business, we were able to put those lessons to work in building out the new space just the way we wanted.
New 9th Floor Space
Like our old 5th floor space, the 9th floor has 8,700 sq feet with the same room designations. Our clients are familiar with the names of our rooms, but because we were designing this place from scratch, just the way we want, we did not waste an inch. We sat down with our architect Ethan Gerard and our contractor, Rafferty Brothers and we mapped out our space to use the same room designations we had before but obviously taking better advantage of the space.
All of our rooms have been designed to make the best possible use of natural light. For example:
Conference Room 1: 8 people boardroom style, has beautiful views looking east on 23rd Street at the Flatiron building. Comfortable, commodious, no-nonsense, no-frills just like our old spaces but with better views and no wasted space.
Conference Room 2: Boardroom style for as many as 15 or 20. Can also be used classroom or theater style. Because we designed it from scratch, it actually has a nice glass window that allows you access and views outside to see the natural light from the rest of the space.
Let me also mention that one of the great new things about our space on the 9th floor is we took advantage of the buildout to make maximum use of LCD television technology. LCD TVs are mass-produced and high resolution at very reasonable cost. There is no issue anymore with having to use projectors or TVs on wheels or carts. The TVs are all mounted on the walls, which means you don’t lose any space by having to have projectors in the room taking space on the floors, and you can set them up in duplex mode or mirroring mode, so if you’re sitting at the tables you can see your Powerpoints and screen presentations from any point in the room. We’ve carried that through to all of the rooms.
We used to have four meeting rooms that were 200 sq feet and 274 sq feet. The new ones are 475-500 sq feet. We have special movable partitions where you can divide the rooms in two. The rooms have two doors so they can be set up so you can turn one room into two so you can have, in effect, four nice-size conference rooms. Or you can take them out and have one big, almost-500- sq-foot meeting room. That means you can set it up boardroom, theater or classroom style. They all have natural light and beautiful views looking out on 23rd Street. They have mounted LCD TVs on the walls so there’s no need to use projectors. You have a good view of your Powerpoints and presentation notes no matter where you are in the room.
We have beautiful vinyl flooring that is patterned after natural wood. It looks great and allows us to keep the place clean and have quick turnover for our events. We learned over the years in our old space not to use carpeting, as vinyl flooring is the best value and the easiest way to maintain a full schedule and keep the place clean without worrying about spills and all the inevitable issues that come up when you’re running events.
We used to have seminar rooms that were 475, 750 and 875 sq feet, respectively.
Now, we have two that are approximately 800 square feet (Seminar Rooms A and C) and Seminar B at 575 square feet. The numbers are deceptive because we laid it out from scratch with our architects, so every square inch of the new rooms is functional. There’s no wasted space on the walls with turns and corridors and pillars that foreclose the opportunity of certain room layouts. All of the rooms can fit classroom, boardroom and theater-style seating in numbers equal if not more than what we had in our old space. And here are the best features of our seminar rooms:
Seminar Room A: Designed with glass walls looking down our main corridor. It’s light and airy. At the same time, it has some very effective and artistic frosted glass that lets the light in but also gives you a sense of privacy. The old Seminar Room A lacked any windows or views of the outside - we heard from our clients over the years that it made some people feel claustrophobic. Mounted TVs. A wonderful upgrade.
Seminar Room B: You can now get a third more people in when you’re doing theater, classroom and boardroom style layouts. It has a big LCD TV at the front. It has a clerestory to let in natural light.
Seminar Room C: Natural lighting, picture windows that look out on the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street. A beautiful view looking south on Sixth Avenue where you can see the Freedom Tower - 1 World Trade Center. You can also look down on 23rd Street. LCD TVs. High ceilings, which the old Seminar Room C didn’t have. No projector that takes up space and interrupts use of the room. Three 60-inch LCD TVs mounted on the front and the sides of the room.
We also have a bigger, more capacious breakroom. There’s now room for up to 16 people with four tables and two refrigerators. The room is painted with bright colors and we’ve got some beautiful art on the walls. The room is easily accessible by all of the people using the 9th floor facilities.
We’ve decorated the entire space with an NYCSCC-branded color scheme. When you walk in, there’s never any question that you’re in the New York City Seminar and Conference Center. As soon as you come off the elevator, you see a series of indented spaces in the wall that represent the four colors of the conference center (brand and logo). The three indentations are designed in such a way that no matter what direction you look at them, you see all four of the primary colors that make up the NYCSCC brand. That gets carried through to the 9th floor and our new lower level space. Every different type of room has its own color.
Conference Rooms: Red
Seminar Rooms: Orange
Meeting Rooms: Turquoise
Event Halls: Blue
Our new website is one-size-fits-all based on the Magento contact management system and was designed by our friends at the Cosmos web development firm (Cosmos Communications). We picked them because they are a local company; we pride ourselves on being a local operation. The design, development and management is all done in the neighborhood, right down the block from us. We worked very closely with them to develop a cutting-edge website using modern design principles. It uses our branded colors, which ties out to the colors in our rooms, the colors in our logo and now the colors in our website.
Booking on Website
The new website is a big improvement; it extends our philosophy which is that we’re a value conference center. It includes interactive floor plans and pictures of all our rooms. Unlike our competitors, we list all of our full retail prices on a per-day, per-hour and per-week basis for a 24/7, 7-day-a-week rental program. You can book the events directly on the website or you can fill out an inquiry request form and our sales team will get back to you. You can do self-service and put in the essentials for your events and our sales team will get back to you, usually within an hour or two. The new website is up and functioning and it really ties in with the theme, branding, look and feel of our new 9th-floor space.
The New York CIty Seminar and Conference Center is the proud winner of a $90,000 Love Your Local New York City small business grant. We’re one of only 20 award winners as a local small business of longstanding and good reputation. We will use the grant to renovate our lower-level space. Those of you who have been there know it’s a clean, efficient, effective space right in the middle of the Flatiron District, Chelsea and NoMad. It’s public assembly permitted, it can hold up to 203 people in a variety of configurations. It’s in the historic Masonic Hall at 71 West 23rd Street. It has high ceilings, its own bathrooms and its own separate reception area. It has movable partitions so that the space can be divided into three rooms of 800 square feet each so you can do your breakouts and run your events in the most flexible way possible. As part of the renovation, it’s going to have brand new vinyl flooring that’s going to tie out with what we did on the 9th floor. It’s going to be repainted and we’re replacing all of the lighting. It will have state-of-the-art modern LED lighting to replace the fluorescent lighting that we’ve long had in place. It’s going to be bright, fresh and new. We’re going to be adding state-of-the-art, upgraded videoconferencing equipment, as well. We’re putting in a new double door that will make access to the space as an auditorium better than ever. It’s going to be refreshed and modern and clean. All of the things that appeal to people about that space are going to be better than ever.
With our 15-year lease extension, we hope NYCSCC will continue to be your choice for value event space in what has become a necessary and needed resource in Flatiron, Chelsea and NoMad for reasonably priced technology event and conference space. You can expect the same great service in our beautiful new space. Check out our new website to get in touch with us.
Coronavirus Video Conferencing
One of the things we’re doing with all the discussion of the coronavirus is working with new and existing clients to help them run their events online. So if they can’t get together in large groups, we can host your event online with services such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and YouTube based on the need of the client. We’ll work with everybody so that they can do their events with us. People who can’t make it here because of the travel and coronavirus issues can participate and see what’s going on remotely. We have a lot of experience doing this. We can put together very competitive “Value” quotes for various webinar and video conference options upon client request.
All in all, I think our new and refurbished space in one of the best places in the City to meet and do events of all types will be appreciated by our many long-time clients, as well as make us an attractive choice for many new ones!