An army of young people swarmed through the darkened rectangles of industrial Brooklyn, orienteering by thudding beats and prismatic light to a former shipbuilding factory. They wore chokers and tracksuits, accessorized with sunglasses and devil sticks.
This was not an illegal rave, the kind where attendees risked nose-diving through rotten floorboards or fleeing a police raid. Instead the party, which took place in February inside a giant warehouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, had $ 130 backstage tickets, meaty throngs of security and Eric Prydz, a famed techno D.J. from Sweden who performs as Pryda.
By 2 a.m. that Sunday morning, several thousand revelers bobbed beneath a lattice of white lasers. Some lined up for $ 11 tall boys of Heineken. Models in leather pants and men in scoop-neck tees occupied a V.I.P. section with plush chairs and bottle service.
On the dance floor, a man who resembled Jose Canseco gyrated in a Trukfit tank top near a guy in a shirt with “Venmo” printed across the chest (it looked more like swag than ironic culture jamming).
In a moment when New York’s club circuit has contracted, with the closing of Output and Cielo, a promotional outfit called Teksupport has emerged to dominate the city’s warehouse scene. It is not moored to a brick-and-mortar location, and instead fills cavernous and untapped spaces with D.J. stages, speaker towers, fog machines and pulsating lights.
The low-profile man behind this rave is Rob Toma, a 36-year-old party veteran who was raised in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.
“New Yorkers are very, very spoiled,” Mr. Toma said, seated in the driver’s seat of a black Rolls-Royce Wraith, as he waited for the club to fill. “Everything has to be bigger and better. It has to have this mega-festival feel. It’s like Burning Man meets raves meets illegal meets Pacha.”
After entering the warehouse through a back entrance, Mr. Toma ascended a staircase to a catwalk above the crowd and surveyed his domain. It was a vast, if sterile, kingdom of metal, concrete and bountiful porta potties. It had neither the lawless grunge of an illegal rave nor the considered hospitality of a nightclub.
Mr. Toma has been going to parties for most of his life. As a teenager in the late 1990s, he held hip-hop parties while attending Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. During his senior year, he visited the Sound Factory, an iconic megaclub on the West Side of Manhattan, and began his journey into dance music.
His parents, who immigrated from Egypt, saw him as a potential doctor or lawyer, and he attended two years of college at St. John’s University’s Staten Island campus. “But I found myself promoting, networking, brokering frat parties,” he said. That path led to jobs at clubs like Exit, Spirit, Crobar and Pacha, as well as six consecutive seasons in Ibiza.
“Rob is extremely well networked and plugged in on an international scale,” said Michael Delle Donne of Resident Advisor, an electronic music platform that frequently sells tickets to Teksupport events. “He really lives behind the scenes, behind the curtains and out of the spotlight. He’ll be in the greenroom working on a computer while the event is raging.”
Unlike the dance clubs he grew up with in the 1990s, which came under siege by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Teksupport has a cozier relationship with city officials. Its breakthrough event — importing Time Warp, a German electronic music festival, to Brooklyn in 2014 — took place on the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park. Mr. Toma credits relationships with community boards and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Nightlife.
“It’s like, whoa, they finally woke up and smelled the coffee,” Mr. Toma said. “There’s a lot of up-and-coming politicians coming in. They just get it — they went to their Coachella.”
Ariel Palitz, the city’s so-called Nightlife Mayor, echoed the shift in sentiments and said that Teksupport was one of the first club promoters to contact her office. “We’re not encouraging big parties,” she said. “We’re saying, if this natural occurrence of people wanting to socialize in large spaces is happening, we’re trying to help it to survive.”
Teksupport has also held raves at 99 Scott Avenue, an industrial event space in East Williamsburg; the Intrepid Museum along the Hudson River in Manhattan; and the Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun Park in Monticello, N.Y., for a Memorial Day “glamping” festival called Gather.
Upcoming events include a Halloween party with CircoLoco somewhere in Brooklyn, and the return of Time Warp in November, at the New York Expo Center in the Bronx.
Even as Teksupport thrives in an industry undergoing upheaval, Mr. Toma admits that he is leery of a New York night-life ecosystem in which grand-scale pop-up raves replace both permanent clubs and underground raves.
“The only thing I’m a little scared of, sometimes, is doing so many big events, and if it loses its touch,” Mr. Toma said. “What happens when this isn’t so cool? And there’s no nightclubs and there’s nothing? I get freaked out.”