La Nueva Mesa Presents Exploration Of The Plant Kingdom

Did The Sanctuary's 2nd "Event" Bomb?

Updated 5 weeks ago David Stone
Ten minutes after Exploration of the Plant Kingdom's announced start, a hostess awaits the first arrivals.
Ten minutes after Exploration of the Plant Kingdom's announced start, a hostess awaits the first arrivals.
© David Stone / The Roosevelt Island Daily

Who knew what to expect when La Nueva Mesa arranged for an Exploration Of The Plant Kingdom, "a wine-paired six-course locally sourced plant based meal crafted by Drew Shives, Matthew Taber and Amir Dholakia- the three ex-Jean-George culinary wizards behind Beta, the wait-list only popup in Queens?" It's likely event organizers expected something more.

"Located on Manhattan's Most Intimate Island..." That's us. At $125 per person, organizers promised, "Indulge in a night to remember. Better act fast, there's limited seating and the location will only be given at time of purchase."

Nevertheless, Edible Queens, promoters of the event, contacted local media, including The Daily, openly identifying The Sanctuary Event Space on Roosevelt Island as the location and asking for free coverage, more than two weeks ago.

The Daily declined because of legitimacy, safety and regulatory questions that went unanswered by RIOC and Hudson Related, but the event was locally promoted and the location identified elsewhere.

Five days later, The Sanctuary played host to its first, a fundraising event for the Titan Theatre Company. Touted as a crowded and successful event, participation was influenced by a large number of free passes handed out in days immediately preceding the party.

The first Sanctuary event's claimed success was bolstered by RIOC's contributing, at residents' expense, PSD officers preventing attendees from using a fire lane as an access road and rerouting traffic away from an unmarked road through The Octagon's parking lot.

As The Sanctuary's second event began, one couple sat at a table in the "alfresco beer garden."
As The Sanctuary's second event began, one couple sat at a table in the "alfresco beer garden."
© David Stone / The Roosevelt Island Daily

Exploration of the Plant Kingdom's Different Fate

PSD officers were not present to help with traffic for this event and neither, it appeared, were guests. 

The lure of "Manhattan's Most Intimate Island" may not have been enough to pull many into a pricey venue that's hard to access. Subway, Ferry and Tram stations are over a half-mile away, there's inadequate parking available and the venue sports an unfinished look, suggesting space opened too soon.

As 6:30 passed, the small parking lot outside The Sanctuary had just five vehicles, one a vendor's, another belonging to a couple out for a walk on the West Promenade.

Lights strung outside for the Titan Theatre fundraiser were lit, but the designated "beer garden" area had only a single table occupied by a couple without refreshments. 

Ten minutes later, a hostess with what looked like menus idled at the door. No one arrived. Nearby, children romped in Octagon Park's playground, and a family enjoyed a picnic. 

Automobile traffic didn't cause any congestion.

For a while, I watched to see if some of the people walking along the West Promenade or on the path from Main Street past Pony Field were headed to The Sanctuary.

No, none were.

I walked through the fire lane to The Octagon's parking lot. It wasn't full, and I saw no traffic between there and The Sanctuary. Then, a free RIOC red buses arrived. Passengers either stayed on the bus or came home to the apartment complex.

No one walked through the parking lot and turned the corner toward The Sanctuary.

What's next for The Sanctuary?

To our knowledge, no future events are currently scheduled. This spring, according to multiple news reports and Hudson Related, The Sanctuary will give new life to the historic church by converting it into a "speakeasy and alfresco beer garden."

Challenges facing such an operation appear daunting. Access is limited, and years of local experience suggest that drawing off-island commercial traffic to Roosevelt Island is a seasonal thing dependent on outsiders arriving to play sports.

Winters can be long for a Roosevelt Island speakeasy.

As of this morning, The Sanctuary's barebones website invites you to "contact us" but does not suggest any reason to do so.

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