Downtown Brooklyn would have everything to gain and nothing to lose from a 2016 Democratic National Convention in Barclays Center.
The Democratic Party would find itself in friendly territory, with about 90 percent of the people in the surrounding neighborhoods being Democrats (those people who register to vote, that is, but that’s a story for another day).
Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Mary Frost, in her recent article about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid for a convention at Barclays, quotes the reaction of Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce: “Home to a new generation of doers and makers, Brooklyn represents the up-from-the-bootstraps American ideal better than any other city in the nation. The Barclays Center is the hottest arena in the nation, and we have the culture, facilities and media savvy to make this the greatest convention any party has ever held."
I don’t know much about Scissura’s background, but it’s probably safe to say that he’s a Democrat, since he was appointed as chief of staff by former Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is still active in Brooklyn Democratic politics.
Frost also quotes de Blasio’s letter to Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “This spectacular arena in one of the most dynamic and resurgent neighborhoods in our city is located atop nine subway lines and a stop of the Long Island Railroad.” De Blasio, a longtime Brooklynite, adds that nearby institutions, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, could also house some of the convention’s many events.
The convention might even include speeches by local Democratic officials, such as current Borough President Eric Adams or any of Brooklyn’s Democratic congresspersons—Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez, Jerrold Nadler or Carolyn Maloney.
Although Barclays Center majority owner Bruce Ratner is not outrightly political (as far as we know), he might not be able to resist the spotlight and might ask to speak at the convention, too. Nearby stores and restaurants could offer special deals for delegates.
Contrast the probable reception of a Democratic National Convention at Barclays with the 2004 Republican National Convention in Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. I saw what happened there at my own eyes, since I live seven blocks away on Eighth Avenue.
In 2004, the Republicans isolated themselves from the general population by building a pedestrian bridge from Madison Square Garden to the General Post Office across the street. While the city said the bridge was built to allow members of the media, who were housed in the post office, to move “effortlessly” onto the convention floor, many New Yorkers saw this as a sign that the Republicans and their retinue didn’t want to deal with everyday New Yorkers.
Also in 2004, delegates complained that they were met with hostility in restaurants and other public places throughout the city. This wouldn’t happen with a Democratic convention in Brooklyn. Sure, there are local Republicans and Conservatives, especially in Bay Ridge, but they are reasonable people and don’t go in for such tactics. (The atmosphere in 2004 was exacerbated by the fact that George W. Bush, an extremely unpopular president, was in office.)
Getting back to Barclays, a convention there would be another sign that Brooklyn has arrived. National news outlets would refer to it as “the Brooklyn Democratic Convention,” not “the New York Democratic Convention.”
There are any number of reasons to hold the Democratic Convention here. Bring it on!