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Why Brooklyn Lost the Democratic National Convention to Philadelphia

By Jeff Mays | February 12, 2015 6:10pm
 The mayor officially announced the city's bid to host the 2016 DNC last summer. Now, local residents are urging the administration to take steps to reduce impacts to residents around the Barclays Center if the city wins the bid.
The mayor officially announced the city's bid to host the 2016 DNC last summer. Now, local residents are urging the administration to take steps to reduce impacts to residents around the Barclays Center if the city wins the bid.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

NEW YORK CITY— The Democratic National Committee insisted Thursday that there were only three factors — "logistics, security and resources"— that made them choose Philadelphia over New York for the party's 2016 convention.

DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Philadelphia had 18,500 hotel rooms within a 15 minute walking distance of the arena where the convention will be held. Many of New York's participants would have had to travel from hotels in Manhattan to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he took the DNC at their word, but experts a little closer to home believe a recent spate of controversy — from the Eric Garner firestorm to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's federal corruption charges —may have played a bigger role.

"Simply put, New York would have given the Republican party a lot more negative material to work with," said Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

Also at play was a rejection of de Blasio's progressive politics as the mantra of the Democratic Party 2016 presidential candidate going forward, as well as his visibly tense relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, insiders say.

Here's a look at some of the unspoken reasons that experts believe New York lost out to Philadelphia for the DNC's 2016 convention.

The Difficult Relationship Between De Blasio and Cuomo

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell praised Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter Thursday for the way he worked with the state to make sure Philadelphia won the bid.

The DNC organizers might have been wondering what type of help de Blasio would get from Cuomo given the ragged public relations between the two executives.

The list of their entanglements is long and messy. De Blasio complained earlier this month that Cuomo only gave him 15 minutes notice before publicly announcing that he was shutting the subway due to a snowstorm.

And hours after de Blasio featured a plan to lobby for the minimum wage to go up to $15 and a proposal for affordable housing on rail yards in Queens in his State of the City speech, Cuomo's spokeswoman issued a statement shooting down both ideas.

De Blasio's minimum wage suggestion was described as a "non-starter" and the rail yards de Blasio wanted to use for affordable housing were not available in the "short-term," the governor's office said.

"With the friction between de Blasio and Cuomo they might have realized this wouldn't be a good situation they were coming into," said Falcón.

Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment.

New York City is Too Liberal

De Blasio has positioned himself as the face of progressive politics in this country, making income inequality, eliminating discriminatory policing and affordable housing focal points of his administration.

While that may have earned the mayor the keys to Gracie Mansion, Evan Thies, a political consultant who is the president of Brooklyn Strategies, said losing the DNC to Philadelphia is a blow to the progressive brand of politics de Blasio's been advocating for around the country and even abroad.

"The clear consensus among Democratic Party leadership nationwide is that the liberal movement fronted by de Blasio and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will not be enough to keep the White House," Thies said.

"Serious candidates are going to have to try and talk to voters outside of this progressive movement. Pennsylvania is as much a battleground as anywhere in the country," Thies added.

De Blasio swiftly rejected that notion.

"If Pennsylvania is a swing state, we as Democrats have bigger problems," said the mayor.

Income inequality is a moral issue that is moving into the national spotlight, he said, using President Barack Obama's "strikingly progressive" State of the Union speech as an example.

"It was an amazing speech that really gave us a great blueprint of how we have to talk about this," said de Blasio. "He knew he was framing the discussion for 2015 and 2016."

De Blasio also highlighted the recent comments on income inequality by three Republicans, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, to show that the issue is not just for liberal politicians.

"I actually think progressive values fit where the party is right now and where more and more people see the party is going and what a lot of people in the Democratic party believe has to be addressed to prevail," said de Blasio.

Falcón isn't so sure. He said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's recent State of the City address was to the left of de Blasio in some ways and would have provided Republicans even more fodder.

"You could see Republicans making fun of New York City as 'New Left City,'" he said.

De Blasio's Police Troubles

The images of NYPD officers turning their backs on the mayor at the funeral for two slain officers made national news. And even before that rift, some police union leaders questioned de Blasio's plan to bring the DNC to Brooklyn.

With the police force expected to provide security for tens of thousands out of town visitors, the mayor's relationship with the police department may have come into play.

"The optics of the police looking totally out of control in regards to the mayor and people questioning his handling of the situation and his leadership was not good," said Falcón. "You could see how the attack ads from Republicans of photos of police turning their backs on the mayor would look horrible."

The mayor disputed that his relationship with police could have been a factor in the DNC's decision.

"I talked to countless people in Washington, as did the team, and it was not raised by a single person," said de Blasio.

Sheldon Silver and Preet Bharara

When U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the indictment of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges, he once again excoriated Albany's culture of corruption and said to stay tuned for more possible charges against other Albany lawmakers.

With two years to go until the convention, it's simply unpredictable as to how many New York City and state politicians could be Bharara's next targets.

Nutter talked about the attention a national party convention conveys on its host city.

"This is a very serious matter. The world watches what happens in American politics," said Nutter. "The eyes of the world will be on Philadelphia as a part of this process."

Still, de Blasio put a brave face on Thursday's loss, describing the application process as a worthwhile effort that gave city officials a chance to broadcast "the message of Brooklyn."

"Here is a place that epitomizes immigration, inclusion, diversity, economic possibility, youthfulness. We thought that was a very powerful x-factor and the arena being in the epicenter of that was a plus," said de Blasio.