NY Comic Con, Part 2 – the whining

So here’s where I actually bitch and moan about NYCC, the Javits Center, New York City, and major metro areas that have no idea how to host a real convention.

In my other life I went to a lot of conventions. Some of them, like the NC Theatre Conference, were very small, maybe a couple hundred people some years. Those have certain challenges to organizers, but once you find a venue, the attendees pretty much have no idea that there are any issues. Some were large, like Lighting Dimensions International (I wave hello to my lighting industry friends who are gathering in Vegas this weekend). These conventions have their own issues, and it doesn’t take much to make them noticeable, because any glitch will affect thousands, or tens of thousands of people. Then there are the huge shows, like the National Association of Broadcasters show, which fills the entire Las Vegas Convention Center every year. These have no room for error, because they are on the biggest stage. NY Comic Con is that kind of size. The size that if there’s anything off or goofy, it could affect the population of a small city.

Like I said, I’ve been to a lot of conventions in a lot of places, and I’ve seen some towns that really understand how to host a convention. Las Vegas and Orlando really understand what it takes to host a convention.

New York City has no clue.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate New York. I wouldn’t want to live there for very long, I don’t like cold weather and I don’t like crowds that much. But I like New York. And going into this adventure I figured it would be no huge hassle to get everything loaded in, loaded out, make commerce happen, what have you.

That was when I assumed New York knows how to host a major convention.

I think I know why NYC doesn’t understand how to host a major con or trade show – population density. If there were 110,000 people at NYCC, probably 80,000 of them were from the greater NYC area. If there are 90,000 people attending NAB in Las Vegas, 80,000 of them were from outside the Las Vegas metro area.

This lack of outside guests means that New York doesn’t have one of the most important things any city must have for a convention center – a convention hotel. I’ve never been to a convention center anywhere in the US where there isn’t a hotel within a short walk. And I don’t mean a New York short walk, I mean a Kansas short walk. More than two blocks is not a short walk. And there’s no major hotel near the Javits Center. None.

There’s also no subway stop close by. The nearest subway station is right outside Penn Station, which is about 3/4 of a mile away. Not a huge deal under normal circumstances, unless you’ve been standing on concrete in boots all day, or are wearing an elaborate costume, or are just friggin’ tired, or want to start your day at a con looking fresh! Yeah, yeah, I know – there’s one under construction. But here’s the thing – the Javits Center ain’t exactly new! It’s been open almost 30 years!

Then there are the cabs. Yeah, I know, take a taxi. Sure – if they’ll stop. There was no cab stand outside the main exit for the convention center, and none of the cabs we saw in the evenings outside the convention center were on duty. Contrast this with the Las Vegas Convention Center, where there are huge lines of cabs with cab attendants pairing people up to cab share so the lines move more quickly and people can save cash on cabs.

All of these things combined to make Comic Con just a less pleasant experience than it could be if it weren’t in one of the largest cities in the US. In almost any other city, the influx of 100,000 people for one event would get the entire city’s attention. Red carpets would be rolled out, cheap hotel rooms would be flowing like water, and every cabbie in the city would be salivating at all those tourist dollars. In New York, they call that Tuesday.

So until there’s a convention hotel near the Javits, or a subway stop right outside, or someone is willing to foot my bill for cab and car fare all weekend, I’ll be sticking to the smaller cons. Like Dragon*Con, which only has 50-60,000 people. 🙂

I am planning my convention schedule for 2013, so if you’ve got a great con in your area that you’d like to see me at, drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do.

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3 thoughts on “NY Comic Con, Part 2 – the whining

  1. Post Mortem Press always does Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, and last year we rocked it. If it’s important that a con be smoothly run and be in the presence of hotels, this is about as good as it gets.

  2. Hey… there actually are hotels within 4-5 blocks walk.. which is new only in the past couple years. You used to have to walk over to Times Square to find the nearest hotel.

    What is really killer, though, is the lack of subway line. They’ve been building it, but it’s not done yet. (All that construction across the stree. Years of work. It’s the extension of the 7 line which will go to the Javitz.)

    From what I gather (been told, etc.) is that the city expected that hotels would move in around the convention center. And there’s a lot of room for it. A lot of empty lots they could build on. But instead, some developers built two high end luxury condos north of the convention center, and the rest… nothing.

  3. John, WizardWorld Chicago is a blast, four days of fun. Hotels are across the street (nice ones by my standards) with a sky bridge to the Donal E. Stevens Convention Center. It’s in August so the weather should be something more akin to back home (do not come here in the winter, period). It is minutes away from O’Hare International and there is tons of great food and drink nearby. WWC is where I met Drew Blank, so get his feel for it. Hope to see you there in 13.

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