Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mayor de Blasio proposes Barclays Center as site of 2016 Democratic convention; questions about logistics, strategy and symbolism

Call it borough pride, surfing the zeitgeist, or payback to developer (and campaign supporter) Bruce Ratner--or maybe all three. Brooklyn-based Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed that the 2016 Democratic convention be held in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, with other events spread around the boroughs.

That was a distinct choice by de Blasio, who had before him an internal proposal to alternatively hold the convention at the Javits Center or Madison Square Garden, closer to the majority of hotel rooms.

Much of the response concerned the perceived political benefit--or lack thereof--of holding a Democratic convention in a Democratic stronghold, rather than in a swing state where (presumably) the convention might offer a political boost. 

Some concerned the logistics of a convention in Brooklyn, which has only 3500 hotel room--while the convention would require rooms for 35,000 people. (Not sure how many would double or triple up.)

As I wrote on Twitter, though not the main motivation, the proposal not only boosts de Blasio's buddy Bruce Ratner, as well as his Russian oligarch partner on the arena, Mikhail Prokhorov, and also Ratner's Chinese government-owned partner on the overall Atlantic Yards project.

NetsDaily tweeter Bob Windrem (aka Net Income) picked up the issue, observing, "DeBlasio wants Barclays (owned in part by Russian oligarch) to be site of 2016 Dem convention. yeah, that'll work."

Indeed, the optics are such that they make an easy target for opposition research. My bet is the logistics issue--hotels and travel--as well as New York's Democratic nature will scotch the bid. If they don't, I would expect the Prokhorov issue--who knows what tensions we might have with Russia in 2016--would be dispositive.

So I would give long odds on the convention coming to Brooklyn.

I'd add that there's likely to be construction (B3 tower) around the Barclays Center at the time of the convention.

Where's the arena? What's ACORN?

The article in the Times, which broke the news, went through several iterations, and some clarifications. For example, the original article placed the arena "in Brooklyn's bustling downtown" and claimed Brooklyn had "deep ties to prominent liberal groups like Acorn."

I pointed out on Twitter that the arena's not "in" downtown (though arguably it's at the edge of the not-so-bustling part of downtown; rather it's in Prospect Heights or, as state documents say, the "Atlantic Terminal area"). Also, I noted that ACORN was defunct (as well as bailed out by Ratner).

Those claims vanished from later editions, as shown on NewsDiffs.



From the Times

The final version is headlined Promoting City’s Spirit, de Blasio Aims to Bring Democratic Convention to Brooklyn:
The de Blasio administration on Friday proposed that when the Democratic Party gathers to crown its next presidential nominee, it do so in the mayor’s home borough, a cradle of the resurgent left that has morphed from a symbol of the working class into a gritty, global arbiter of cool.
In a 200-page formal bid, New York City offers up the Barclays Center, the rust-glazed sports and entertainment arena near Brooklyn’s bustling downtown, as the anchor venue for the quadrennial gathering, with accommodations and other events to be spread across the city’s four other boroughs.
A Democratic convention in Brooklyn, which has some of the most liberal pockets in one of the country’s most liberal cities, would be a stark departure from the recent tradition of political parties hosting their conventions in swing states like Florida and Colorado.
And it would raise a number of intriguing angles for national Democrats, who are confronting the rise of a revived left wing that has challenged the direction of a party known for tacking to the center since the Clinton administration.PhotoMr. de Blasio, a Democrat who lives a seven-minute drive from the arena, made no attempt to hide the clear political overtones of a Brooklyn-based convention in a letter sent on Friday to the Democratic National Committee.
“The progressive spirit of New York City has never been stronger or more vibrant than it is today,” the mayor wrote. “We believe that this spirit can energize and captivate both the Democratic Party and the nation.”
As one reader commented:
The idea that a major political convention could be proposed for Brooklyn is just amazing. Aside from the Barclay's Center, the neighborhoods around the Center would be terra incognito to the poor g delegates from wherever. The fact that Brooklyn is reachable from Manhattan by bridge and subway doe n't deal with the nightmare traffic jams that would be created by the various motorcades that go along with these political events. The symbolism of NYC as a baston of liberalism is simply a myth New Yorkers tell themselves. The growth in inequality in NYC is as extreme as anywhere else in the country. The rise in homelessness for women and their children is a disgrace; New York has one of the most segregated school systems in the country. if Obama came to NYC for the convention, he should get the same reception that that greeted the Democrats in 1968. 
Local comments

The Times conducted a couple of interviews near the Barclays Center, finding a young woman who hoped it would bring jobs and a homeless shelter "for the man that sleeps outside our apartment complex."

One Democrat said it would help the party, while a Republican questioned whether the money would help the city.

More pointed views

Comments online were more pungent. One questioned the generalization:
Yes, even though most of Brooklyn is still mostly working class and poor it has morphed into an arbiter of 'cool.' Thanks for ignoring 80% of the borough's population to once again turn a news story into a lifestyle article.
Another connected the generalization to Atlantic Yards:
As a lifelong Brooklynite, it pains me to see the borough become an overpriced "hipster" enclave. Instead of chasing tourist dollars for an event that's been reduced to a formality (that only serves and benefits the few!), Mayor de Blasio should force Bruce Ratner's hand on building those "affordable housing" units that are supposed to be next to Barclays Center.
Another questioned the response by cops:
I think the Dems would have about the same welcome by NYC's hardcore progressives as the RNC did . More like Chicago in '68 than the RNC in 2004. It would be curious to see how the NYPD would respond - but the results would probably be same - suspend civil rights for a week and pay the fines for the egregious violations afterward (all factored into the conventions costs - and profits - of course). I say bring it on - NYC is due for another summer of discontent after these sleepy, benign years of Dem distraction.
And another slammed Atlantic Yards:
The Democrats may hold their convention in an arena built through a corrupt process that involved throwing people out of their homes. An arena now owned by a Chinese company  [note: actually Prokhorov owns 45%, Ratner 55% of the arena operating company] hosting a team now owned by a Russian oligarch. An arena that has left a literal big brown stain on Brooklyn from the rust dripping down all over the sidewalk. Two summers from now, it could be a giant pain in the neck to get home from work for a week for anybody living nearby. All this for the coronation of a woman who voted for the Iraq War. And here I thought enduring the MTV award ceremony was bad.
On Barclays Center neighbor said "I love it," while

One reader called it a gamble for the mayor:
Mr. de Blasio has major challenges in front of him to bring to fruition his ambitious plans to address what he charges is New York's "two cities" division of the haves and have-nots, basically through government programs that seek to redistribute massively, robbing Peter to pay Paul. His odds aren't good, particularly since he's had his beak blunted on several occasions, notably by the Albany legislature and by his own Democratic governor. In 2016, he may also be unable to find the cash to redeem generous pledges to public sector unions.
Siting the 2016 Democratic Convention in Brooklyn would be a statement by Democrats far in advance of any ability to know what will happen in NYC that they were 100% behind such aggressively progressive convictions -- while Mr. de Blasio could be crashing and burning just as the convention opens.
Brooklyn BP statement

Borough President Eric Adams issues a statement:
"Brooklyn is the center of the Democratic universe. Our borough and our city embody the spirit and the energy that large-scale events need to succeed, along with our commitment to safety, existing transportation infrastructure and robust hospitality industry. The time has come to bring the king- (or queen-) making convention to the County of Kings. If a city of almost 800,000 people like Charlotte can serve as host, surely our borough, the fourth-largest American city with over 2.5 million people and one of the largest Democratic counties in our nation, can rise to the occasion and make 2016 a banner year for the Democratic Party and its national convention. I look forward to welcoming the nation to Brooklyn for this great celebration of our democracy."

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