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Brooklyn bid to host DNC faces major test

A large crowd gathers outside Barclays Center in

A large crowd gathers outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sept. 28, 2012. Credit: Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams

Brooklyn's Barclays Center serves as the crown jewel of Mayor Bill de Blasio's bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, but it would take all five boroughs to properly accommodate the 35,000 expected attendees, City Hall officials said Friday.

The Prospect Heights arena will be the first stop Monday for the 15-member National Democratic Committee scouting team, due in town to assess the city's hosting capabilities, according to de Blasio administration officials involved in the bid.

The representatives will travel on a private bus from their midtown Manhattan hotel to Barclays, using dedicated traffic lanes to test the length and ease of a commute between the boroughs, officials said. Travel by mass transit would also be modified for convention-goers, officials said.

Though Barclays' 19,000-person capacity, 100 percent union employment and other specifications fit the bill as a convention hall, Brooklyn does not have enough high-capacity hotels. Manhattan does, and officials say Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island will also play supporting roles.

"What we are looking to do is present a five-borough experience to the delegates," said Peter Ragone, senior adviser to de Blasio, a Democrat. "We believe that our city is the most diverse, progressive and advanced city in America and would make a great host for our nominee and the president who will be elected in 2016."

Blue-and-white banners reading "DNC 2016 NYC" -- rather than a slogan featuring Brooklyn exclusively -- have been hung on city streets to underscore the citywide effort to woo the convention.

The itinerary for Monday and Tuesday's DNC visit includes dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side, breakfast at Rockefeller Center in midtown, lunch at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene and a barbecue at Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side, officials said.

City and state elected officials, senior de Blasio administration members and cultural and business leaders -- including potential host committee members and boosters to finance the city's bid -- will be on hand for the events, officials said.

The DNC visitors will receive iPads with a convention app and videos of past New York City Democratic convention speeches, including those by former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, former President Bill Clinton and former Gov. Mario Cuomo, officials said. They will receive gift bags that include local chocolates, wine, taffy and NYPD and FDNY hats, among other items. The Empire State Building will be lit blue Monday and Tuesday in honor of the scouting trip.

"The Technical Advisory Committee is looking forward to the visit next week to evaluate the bid," DNC spokeswoman Lily Adams said. "This is a group of experts and they'll look at everything from financing to transportation to security to the venue itself."

Past New York City national party conventions -- including the 2004 Republican event and 1992 and 1980 Democratic ones -- have been held at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, with other venues and hotels within a 30-block radius. Barclays, which opened in 2012, and Brooklyn would be hosting for the first time.

The convention would cost city taxpayers about $8 million, City Hall officials said. Boosters are expected to raise an additional $80 million to $100 million, and the federal government would provide a $50 million reimbursement for security costs, officials said.

Officials Friday would not confirm which individuals may serve as fundraisers or which will be on site to greet the visiting group, but said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver would play a role next week. Former President Bill Clinton is not expected to participate personally.

The DNC has already visited host candidates Birmingham, Alabama, and Columbus, Ohio. It will stop in Philadelphia and Phoenix after New York City.

Cleveland will be the venue for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

De Blasio said Friday night  event at a community center in Brooklyn that he "would move heaven and earth"  to get the Democratic convention. "We are going to pull out the stops to bring this convention to New York City," he said.

-with Matthew Chayes

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