New York University's senior director of university events, Greg Albanis, has been a part of the NYU community for 31 years, since his first class as an undergraduate student. He has been in his current role for 12 years, planning a range of annual university-wide events, including commencement, as well as a global warming colloquium for which he recently hosted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former president Bill Clinton.
Fireworks: “Phil Grucci works with the fire department and NYU’s Office of Public Safety to produce a three-minute display of fireworks from on top of the management education building for Grad Alley, one of our biggest traditional events, on the night before commencement. Fireworks by Grucci shoots a wire for the electrical current that’s at least a block long, and then they choreograph the whole show to music. There’s a waterfall of sparklers, cannons, and fireworks, and at the end you see 'NYU' lit up in the sky with the class year. It’s phenomenal. It’s a lot of lighting and audio cues, and they pull it off without a hitch every time.”
Rentals: “John Clark and his people at Ace Party Rentals are exceptional to work with, particularly for the events surrounding commencement. Washington Square Park is set up with 19,000 chairs, which have to be discernible by each graduate school. Tents are put up the night before, along with a dance floor at Gould Plaza. And it all has to abide by city code and fire-exit specifications. Ace is a reliable machine, putting everything up in less than a day and breaking it down just as fast.”
Entertainment: “New York Fun Factory provides the amusements when we close down six streets for Grad Alley. They bring the high strikers, mimes, clowns, ventriloquists, horse-drawn carts, Dixieland bands, tattoo artists, face painters, and arcade games. I can trust Cal Nathan to deliver; you give him a map and a time frame—everything’s got to be installed in three to four hours and taken off the streets two hours before commencement the next morning—and he gets it done.”
Music: “Harlan Ellis with More Than Music does all our music for Grad Alley. He brings in an M.C. and a group of dancers who get the crowd of 5,000 going. They can do any kind of music that’s transferable to a speaker.”
Catering: “From our cafeterias to the streets of Greenwich Village during Grad Alley, Aramark delivers, coordinates, cooks, dispenses, cleans, and—this year—recycles in a big way. We are just four people planning the commencement’s festivities, so it's key to have them working with us. They are our premier caterer. They start setting up three days prior to the annual NYU extravaganza, and in only three hours the day of, they hoist snack tents, recycling tents, entrance and distribution tents and dole out more than 5,000 hot dogs, sausages, peppers, and ears of corn, 4,000 knishes and falafels, 6,000 Cracker Jacks, 8,000 cookies, and more than 15,000 waters and sodas.”