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The Rooftop at Pier 17

by Thomas S. Friedman • in
  • Installations
  • September 2018
• Created: September 14, 2018

Keeping Fans (and Neighbors) Happy at NYC’s South Street Seaport

Carrie Underwood kicked things off July 4.

The story begins back when The Howard Hughes Corporation decided that Manhattan’s South Street Seaport district needed a premium entertainment venue. Pier 17 was the perfect location for a building that could offer a variety of dining, retail and entertainment options along with a large 1.5-acre rooftop concert space. The venue is located five stories high, jutting out into the East River, with the Brooklyn Bridge and skyscrapers of the New York Skyline as a stunning backdrop behind the stage. The view is breathtaking, but a key objective here was to deliver an amazing concert experience while keeping the sound from this open-air venue contained and away from the neighbors.

“That’s where we came in,” explains Sam Berkow, owner of SIA Acoustics (siaacoustics.com). “We started by trying to determine how we could reduce the amount of audio that would impact the adjacent neighborhoods, which are Wall Street to the West and Brooklyn to the East.”

While most people do not think of Wall Street as a residential neighborhood, in recent years, many residential buildings have been built, expanded or created from buildings previously used for other purposes. Currently more than 250,000 people call the area around Wall Street home, many living in higher-end luxury apartments.

The solution came in the form of an EAW Anya rig.

‡‡         The Selection Process

“We began our efforts studying the distances between the stage and the closest neighbors, looking to see what loudspeaker systems would be acceptable to higher-end bands, and what their coverage patterns looked like over a wide range of frequencies,” Berkow explains. “We narrowed the field to three systems. After studying the specifics of each of them, we found EAW’s Adaptive Anya loudspeakers and Otto subwoofers were the combination that would dramatically control coverage of sound, provide an impactful and tonally balanced sound to the audience and — be acceptable to most touring acts.”

EAW’s Anya and Otto Loudspeaker systems were part of the last three Tom Petty Tours and have been used at several large festivals and venues where controlling coverage is important. Berkow spent considerable time looking at EAW’s Resolution software, used to predict and program Anya and Otto, to determine the system’s viability.

As the largest city in the U.S., New York regulates include noise restrictions based on time of day and a “general disturbance” clause. As far as the Howard Hughes Corporation was concerned, they wanted to be good neighbors. Their goal was ensuring that sound from their events would not reach the adjacent communities, period.

Each side the stage was flanked with 12 flown Anya cabinets.

Before making a commitment to the system, it was necessary to show the community that an Adaptive loudspeaker system was the solution. At that point, Berkow started working with Anderson Audio and The Morris Group (TMG Systems). The team brought a full-sized Anya/Otto system on site so they could prove it would deliver what Berkow promised. Building a temporary version of the full-sized system, they set up left/right towers and hung Anya arrays, each made up of single columns of 12 Anya modules, approximately 35 feet from the ground. A total of 24 Otto subwoofers were laid out in pairs.

“Once the system was set up, 20 people from Arup’s Acoustics group were brought in, each armed with sound level meters, and dispersed them across Wall Street and Brooklyn,” Berkow explains. “These people were on street level, in apartments and on roofs. The idea was to measure the ambient noise conditions, measure the sound levels with and without the venue system operating and, I believe most importantly, evaluate the subjective experience. Asking and answering the question — was the sound from the venue audible and, if so, was it at a level that most people would find disturbing.

Acoustical designer Sam Berkow

“During this test, we ran the system up to concert levels (105 dBA at front of house), using pink noise, recorded music and live musicians. We also invited members of the community board to visit the site and travel around their neighborhoods as well to see if there was any noise impact. While noise code, and measured sound levels are important, it is the subjective evaluation that can provide the most valuable insight into whether one can expect complaints.”

After a day of testing, the results were conclusive. The Adaptive System from EAW exceeded expectations and would deliver exactly what the Howard Hughes Corporation envisioned for the Rooftop At Pier 17.

“In my opinion, there isn’t another system out there that could do this,” says Chris Anderson, owner of Harrisburg, PA-based Anderson Audio. “The fidelity and control are second to none. When each enclosure has 22 channels of digital signal processing and amplification driving 22 transducers — and then you multiply that by 12 modules in each array — you have the control to really dial it in, so it delivers exactly what is needed, where it is needed.”

View from FOH during the Carrie Underwood performance

“I’m still always so impressed when you walk in and out of the coverage area — the difference is incredible,” says Mark LaBouff, national sales manager, TMG Systems, who provided installation support. “There are two VIP areas technically ‘out of the coverage’ and it’s quiet enough to make a phone call. There were also some concerns about sound levels behind the stage traveling across the water to Brooklyn. Also, not a problem — the rear rejection of the system is substantial.”

With the decision made to move forward with Adaptive, the rest of the construction continued. The venue opened on July 4, 2018, with Carrie Underwood headlining the Spotify Hot Country Live event. A Concert Series was developed by The Howard Hughes Corporation and programmed in partnership with Live Nation. The full season lineup includes Amy Schumer, Diana Ross, 88 Degrees, Ziggy Marley, Sting & Shaggy and more. The rooftop holds 3,400 standing general admission shows, or 2,400 seated, and has the Brooklyn Bridge as the stage’s backdrop and sweeping views of New York City’s landmarks all around. All in all, it’s an extremely impressive venue.

“I was intrigued when they brought SIA Acoustics in on this project,” concludes Berkow. “The big question was, can it be done? You start playing with different scenarios and it really gets you thinking. We had great fun figuring it out and I must admit, I’m extremely pleased with the result.”


The Pier 17 Project

  • Venue: Fifth floor open-air rooftop
  • Capacity: 3,400 standing/2,400 seated
  • Key Components: EAW Anya System, OTTO subwoofers
  • Acoustical Designer: Sam Berkow SIA Acoustics
  • Integrators: Anderson Audio; The Morris Group

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