Why Brooklyn Got Snubbed and Philadelphia Won the Democratic National Convention

Democratic National Committee chose Philadelphia over Brooklyn.

ByABC News
February 12, 2015, 2:08 PM
The Barclays Center is pictured on April 9, 2013 in Brooklyn.
The Barclays Center is pictured on April 9, 2013 in Brooklyn.
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

— -- The Democratic National Convention will be in Philadelphia, not Columbus, Ohio, or the most talked about possibility, New York City, specifically Brooklyn.

Philly may have been the leading favorite, but why did Brooklyn get snubbed? It turns out there are quite a few reasons.

In a conference call, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC Chair, said the decision was the result of a “year-long effort” that is “primarily a business decision” and the “decision was not easy,” adding “all the cities who initially bid were phenomenal American cities.”

She added that while “New York City put together a very strong bid,” Philadelphia’s bid was “unmatched” and that the committee wanted to “ensure a city could transport and house attendees seamlessly.”

In Brooklyn, delegates would have to be bused in from hotels in Manhattan, while in Philadelphia, Wasserman Schultz noted there are 18,500 hotel rooms just a “15-minute walk” from the convention site.

“Delegate experience was a very, very important thing for us,” she said.

A senior Democratic official told ABC News that in addition to the hotel problem, Wasserman Schultz’s biggest concern was logistics, noting the security perimeter around the Barclay's Center is in a residential area.

Of course there are other issues too, ones the DNC may not want to discuss. As for whether the police shootings and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent rift with police had anything to do with the decision, as well as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s crackdown on political corruption, including former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, she answered no.

“There were only three factors that we considered when deciding the strongest city and those were logistics, security, and resources,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Extraneous issues were not a factor whatsoever.”

A source from the mayor’s office noted the problems with the 2012 convention in Charlotte and the DNC was “looking for simplest logistics in a smaller city,” as well as the advantage Philadelphia has with being a swing state. They also note the possibility Hillary Clinton’s likely campaign would be headquartered in Brooklyn, saying the “DNC likely wanted to spread the wealth around.”

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.

“Look, our bid was creative, different, unconventional -- and they wanted a simple, surer thing,” the official said.

Longtime New York City Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said it was a culmination of reasons that turned the DNC away from the hipster mecca. Firstly, Pennsylvania is still a swing state.

“Pennsylvania is a state that could potentially vote Republican and has elected Republicans statewide in recent times. Democrats need to be more in tune with the heartland and Pennsylvania represents that,” Sheinkopf said, adding, “New York City and certainly Brooklyn’s recent problems with policing and police shootings didn’t help,” but also the fact that the borough may just be seen as too liberal.

“Being in Brooklyn and considering recent events in New York City, it would be seen as too far to the left, not far enough to the center, and it would be challenge for Democrats not to be seen that way,” Sheinkopf said.

De Blasio took a front-and-center role in the bid, even recruiting high-profile and high-dollar New York City celebrities and donors to put together what seemed like a convincing package.

Sheinkopf said it seemed like de Blasio was “acting on his own,” without much action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but in the end, with recent events like the police and corruption scandals, it “wouldn’t matter what the mayor or the governor would have done.”

De Blasio is close to the Clintons and a progressive champion, but it still didn’t matter.

“The mayor was first and out front,” Sheinkopf said, noting it “would have been a great moment for his administration when in fact it will be seen as a non-starter.”

De Blasio said today he is “disappointed” the Democrats chose Philadelphia for their 2016 convention but he buried any bitterness when he said “I definitely want to congratulate our friends in Philadelphia.”

Nonetheless, de Blasio refused to abandon his pitch.

“I really do believe that a convention in Brooklyn would have sent a great message,” he said. “We got our message across, we didn’t prevail, but we are very, very proud of the message we sent.”