Tuesday, November 25, 2014

At press conference touting DNC bid, happy talk about Brooklyn and Barclays Center (and nothing about Russian/Chinese ownership)

It was a time for happy talk about Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, and the potential for a 2016 Democratic National Convention, with no recognition (at least in the public presentation/pep rally, below) that the last major special event--the far smaller MTV Video Music Awards--played havoc with the arena's closest neighbors.

On the afternoon a group of Brooklynites, including some living/working near the Barclays Center, were invited to City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio's office about the 2016 convention, New York/Brooklyn was named one of the three finalists, along with Philadelphia and Columbus.

That meant the meeting became a photo op for the press.

From a macro perspective, the question for the Democratic National Committee is whether the megaphone of an event in the nation's media capital, coupled with a capacity for major fundraising, trump the perceived need to win a swing state and/or shuttle conventioneers from hotels to the venue.

Photo: Tucker Reed
Joining de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer at the podium were Borough President Eric Adams, Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Brad Lander, and Rep. Yvette Clarke.

Missing from the photo op--and I'm not sure whether they were indisposed, not invited, or not on board (or perhaps just not at the podium)--were Public Advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, and Assemblymembers Walter Mosley, Jim Brennan and (-elect) JoAnne Simon.

(Here's coverage in the Times, Daily News, Post, Wall Street Journal, Observer, )

Getting the ducks in a row

NY1 reported:
The mayor let the media in only momentarily.
"We looked to the Barclays Center. We looked to Brooklyn to be the home of the convention," the mayor said.
Those in the closed door session told us the meeting was about logistics.
"Everyone is really enthusiastic in terms of what it means for the city, what it means for jobs," Schumer said.
"Really to let everyday New Yorkers know how imperative the convention is—dollars and cents," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
"The mayor, rightly so, wanted to touch people who live in the area who run businesses around Barclays center—cultural institutions—to say, 'Listen, this is the beginning of a conversation,'" said Ashley Cotton of real estate company Forest City Ratner.
MSNBC reported:
“Symbolism matters, but it’s about third or fourth place. First is money. The second issue infrastructure. How many taxi cabs do they have? How easy is it to get to the hotels and back? How fast can you build out the convention? Those are all the things that matter,” former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who oversaw Denver’s selection for the 2008 convention, told msnbc. “The most important thing is: Do you have confidence in the host committee to be able to run this convention?”

...Logistically, however, New York’s convention bid is complicated by the fact that most of the city’s hotels are in Manhattan, while the main event would take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The mayor speaks

de Blasio thanked his guests and cited the "tremendous unity, all across New York City, people who wanted to see this happen."

He claimed that the DNC "recognized some of our strengths... we are a diverse city, stronger for our diversity... we're the nation's media capital... and we're a city moving in the right direction... we're a city that's more inclusive than ever."

He said the Barclays Center was "a tremendous venue." Then he cited Brooklyn itself: "the story of Brooklyn, the meaning of Brooklyn, the personality of Brooklyn,  means so much. It sends a message about where we all need to go.... We see Brooklyn's story as America's story, a story of possibility, of hope, of diversity, of a new start."

"So Brooklyn matters because Brooklyn has shown the way, this amazing renaissance over the last few decades, a place that was often the underdog, now the envy of the world," he said, somehow unmindful of the severe inequalities in the borough, as noted in a sobering Brooklyn Community Foundation report.



New opportunities

"The business opportunities are going to be extraordinary in every part of the city," de Blasio claimed. "And we particularly want to make sure that the communities around the Barclays Center have a tremendously positive experience" with much work created and "a lot of money spent on construction, on office space, on security."

The convention would boost hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. He said the 2004 Republican convention "injected over a quarter billion dollars into the economy."

His host committee "will raise over $100 million to make sure this convention is everything it needs to be," the mayor said.

"We want to make it a win-win for all the communities around the Barclays Center, for Brooklyn, and for all five boroughs."

Enter Schumer

New York's senior senator was the only other speaker for the cameras. "He is synonymous with Brooklyn," said de Blasio in his introduction. "Everything good about Brooklyn shows up in the way he approaches his work and what he does  for all of us." (What?)

"Is Brooklyn in the house?" Schumer led off with his old-guy appropriation of a pop culture meme.

"Why will Brooklyn, and should Brooklyn, prevail?" he asked rhetorically. " Because we are the future."

He lapsed into campaign mode: "In America, we have to make a comeback. Middle-class incomes are declining. But we're going to come back. And Brooklyn tells that story. Brooklyn was down in the dumps, Brooklyn came roaring back, just like America will. And that's why Democrats should have their convention in Brooklyn."

Does he think Brooklyn "came roaring back" to a 35% child poverty rate?

"And this convention means a four-letter word: JOBS," Schumer said..

Talking up the arena

Schumer even touted the arena for having half the seats below grade: "you don't have to go up."

"Unlike Sarah Palin, when I say, you can see the Barclays Center from my house, it's true," said Schumer, who lives in a high-floor apartment on Prospect Park West, nearly a mile away.

"And all those folks from the neighborhoods, who we're going to bring on board, we'll make sure that everything works out just fine," he said. "When the Barclays Center was built, people said, every time there's a Nets game, every time there's a concert, there will be bottlenecks. There isn't. Everything is handled great. I live there, I know, I come home."

But that's because, among other things, there are far fewer people driving from New Jersey, far more walking from Brooklyn, a smaller arena than originally promised, and a smaller buildout--without the four towers around the arena--than originally analyzed.

Schumer also claimed it takes him 15 minutes to drive home from midtown at night. "And who wouldn't want to be in New York," he continued, citing Nathan's hot dogs and Junior's cheesecakes.

"It's a special place to have a convention that symbolizes the great future of New York and America," he said.

The symbolism

A Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn would symbolize a lot of things, some in contradiction, such as wealth and poverty, the revival of Brooklyn neighborhoods, the hollowing out of middle-class jobs, the boom in walkable urbanism, and the lack of voter engagement in a one-party city.

Oh, and an arena now 45% owned by a Russian oligarch--he could own more by the time of the convention--that's part of a larger project (excluding the arena and one tower) owned 70% by the government of Shanghai.

Isn't anyone thinking about that?

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