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The DNC goes to Philadelphia, as press finally recognizes concerns about security, logistics; second-guessing on MSG

So, everyone knows Philadelphia was selected yesterday as the site for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and while some cited Philadelphia's position in a swing-state and the undercurrent of scandals facing New York, the decision was officially made on three factors: logistics, security, and resources.

And Brooklyn, a good distance from most hotel rooms and requiring an extensive security cordon in residential districts, fell short. It's notable that barely any news coverage had warned about that issue, instead letting Mayor Bill de Blasio and his allies pooh-pooh any concern.

The most forceful articulation of those issues came in my New York Times online op-ed last month, which got more attention from Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capeheart  (who wrote "Told ya" and linked to his previous Philadelphia prediction) than from the the New York City papers' metro desks. Curious.

The Times reported Security Headaches Doomed Brooklyn Bid for Democratic Convention:
Rejecting the novelty of a Brooklyn bid for the more traditional environs of Philadelphia, Democratic Party officials made clear on Thursday that they had balked at the logistical difficulties of Mr. de Blasio’s proposal, saying they were reluctant to hold their jamboree in a densely residential neighborhood far from the ample hotels and amenities of Manhattan.
The across-the-bridge bid was always a risky endeavor, initiated by Mr. de Blasio and his team in an effort to capitalize on the national rise of a diverse urban Democratic coalition.
But choosing Brooklyn over Manhattan may have been too daring by half: The prospect of setting up a security zone in the largely residential area around the Barclays Center put off party officials. Others were unsure about siting their convention in the same borough where Hillary Rodham Clinton, a leading contender for the presidential nomination, may house her own campaign.
The press conference

Appearing with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Laurie Cumbo, de Blasio began the DNC discussion at about 21 minutes into the video below.

Cumbo claimed that "in my 40 years of living in New York, I have never seen Brooklyn so united about one particular idea. There were no rallies, no protests... Brooklyn wanted to see this happen."

Not so. On the same day my op-ed appeared, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance announced its concerns about having the convention.

One reported pushed back, saying, "We must have talked to several dozen Brooklynites. Not one of them expressed disappointment. They all said to us, 'What a relief, or I'm glad it's going somewheere else, or talked about the parking or security."

"I don't know if I would call it a scientific sample," responded de Blasio, saying the "response I've gotten was incredibly energetic and positive."

"If the DNC had a real preference for a classic American stadium with parking lots, I don't have that to offer," de Blasio said. "If that had been the only consideration, I don't think we would've gotten to the finalist round."

Point taken. But the asset that makes the Barclays Center work for 15,000 visitors to a basketball game--the subway--was not going to work the same way for 35,000 delegates and other visitors. Philadelphia offers a straight shot from downtown to the Wells Fargo Center by road and rail.

Hindsight on MSG

Asked if there was any consideration for siting the convention at Madison Square Garden, de Blasio said that didn't respond to the "preference for a classic arena surrounded by parking lots."

Yes, but MSG is different from Barclays, not requiring the same security perimeter, sited close to hotels, and having already hosted many conventions. (But MSG is not operated by a de Blasio backer.)

The Times reported:
John A. Catsimatidis, the billionaire Republican, who donates heavily to both parties, said the city should have offered to move the convention “from Brooklyn to New York” — meaning Manhattan — rather than losing the event altogether. A more traditional Midtown site, he said, might have eased some of the selection panel’s concerns.
“There were so many things that I heard about Brooklyn. They were disturbed that it takes a lot of transportation time to move between hotels,” said Mr. Catsimatidis, referring to the officials and political donors screening convention sites.
The Manhattan borough president, Gale A. Brewer, was more blunt.
“It would have made more sense to have it at Madison Square Garden,” she said.
Security concerns

The Times reported (for the first time, pretty much):
The Barclays Center abuts quiet, brownstone-filled streets that are home to thousands of New Yorkers, and party officials were particularly concerned about arranging a security perimeter. Residents might have had to show identification to return to their homes at night, and several major avenues in the borough would have had to be shut down in the evening rush.
Party officials also cited the problems of moving conventiongoers between hotels in Midtown Manhattan and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, according to Democrats familiar with the bid.
ABC reported that hotels were closer in Philadelphia, and the Barclays security perimeter was in a residential area. “Delegate experience was a very, very important thing for us,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

From the report:
Another official from the de Blasio administration said pitching Brooklyn was a risk and agreed it was likely logistics that did the bid in, specifically noting the large security perimeter needed to pull off a modern convention and it would require blocks fenced off with restricted access and possibly residents displaced ahead of the convention. In Brooklyn, that would include apartments and small businesses. In Philadelphia, their convention site is much more commercial surrounded by parking lots and football and baseball stadiums.
Other explanations: corruption, swing state, tensions

The New York Post suggested Corruption scandals crushed de Blasio’s chance at 2016 DNC, citing "party sources."

Capital New York reported that one member of the host committee " said the perimeter issue was paramount, but also noted national Democrats were seeking a 'more centrist political environment' than deep-blue New York to host the convention."

I'd note that even backers of Brooklyn's bid told me months ago they thought Philadelphia had the edge for that reason, and I'd have bet that reason would carry the day.

The Daily News's Josh Greenman wrote Despite big names and glamour, NYC loses to Philly in hosting 2016 Democratic National Convention. He suggested that Philadelphia would be a better launching pad for Hillary Clinton, would be a swing state, would avoid former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's corruption trial, and would avoid the mayor's feud with police unions.

Also, echoing colleague Harry Siegel, Greenman wrote
Finally, blame Brooklyn the brand. New York City's most populous borough is full of pulsing, working class, immigrant neighborhoods. But in the popular imagination, it's often reduced to its expensive swaths dominated by hipsters and Brownstones.
An artisanal mayor and artisanal mayo might have opened the convention to endless punch lines.
....It was a battle of brands. Philly won.
DNAinfo suggested some of the "unspoken reasons" behind the loss:
  • The Difficult Relationship Between De Blasio and Cuomo
  • New York City is Too Liberal
  • De Blasio's Police Troubles
  • Sheldon Silver and Preet Bharara
Disappointed locals?

In a rather unskeptical article, DNAinfo cited an open letter to the DNC signed by "dozens of business owners in the Barclays Center’s immediate neighborhood" and found several disappointed. Actually, many of the businesses--such as hotels--were outside the neighborhood.

But DNA did quote Mark Caserta of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District and Michael Pintchik of Pintchik Hardware as supporting the bid.

Making the most of it

The Daily News editorialized Send out the clowns: Why Brooklyn doesn't need the Democratic National Convention anyway

It reminded me how, in 2010, the newspaper turned on a dime, spurning LeBron James after months of pulling for him, including establishment of the website.

Developer Bruce Ratner told DNAinfo he was still happy. “We were proud to be part of an effort that highlighted Brooklyn's unique diversity and energy, and to be one of the symbols of its renewal and bright future," said Bruce Ratner. "We look forward to bringing even more to Brooklyn in the years to come.”

No, he doesn't. He looks forward to selling the arena. He just lost a free advertisement.


  1. Anonymous8:52 AM

    Blam! A number of sharp jabs here. love it!


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