It may always be sunny in Philadelphia, but the chances of the backwater sometimes referred to by self-proclaimed journalists as “the sixth borough” winning a bid to host the next Democratic National Convention should be darker than the soot caked to the side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Publications that claim to relate facts and observations about reality have over the past decade periodically suggested that Philadelphia is “the new Brooklyn,” as if it was at all possible to replicate the unique magic that moves 2.6 million people to keep hustling through superstorms, the constant heaping-on of garbage from neighboring boroughs, and criminal indictments of our political leaders. And now both the Borough of Homes and the so-called “City of Brotherly Love” are on the shortlist to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, so we figured we would ask leaders from our hometown and that pit-stop along Interstate 95 what makes their respective stomping grounds the better choice for the biggest liberal political bash since 2012. Borough President Adams fired the opening salvo by pointing out that Brooklyn’s superior population size — just 1.6 million people call Philadelphia home — means more people could benefit from the largesse of conventioneers.
“To pick a destination that has one million fewer people represents one million fewer opportunities,” Adams said. “I believe the time has come to bring the king- or queen-making convention to the County of Kings.”
Adams, still embroiled in an active rivalry with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over their bet on the Nets–Raptors NBA playoff series, declined to further diss our cheese-steak-eating neighbors, so we took up the charge.
In addition to the aforementioned population differential, there are the arenas. The Barclays Center is a new, iconic building in the heart of a bustling commercial district, sitting directly above a major mass transit hub that services nine subway lines and a commuter rail. The Wells Fargo Center, on the other hand, looks like a shopping mall, sitting as it does in a wide-open area between two expressways, with a pastoral park and a freight rail-yard for neighbors.
Then there are the waterfronts. From the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, visitors can take in sweeping views of the lower Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the boats plying the New York Harbor. Philadelphia’s Delaware River Trail, by contrast, forces strollers to confront the visage of Camden, New Jersey, the low-slung city of 77,000 best known for its closed factories and competitive murder rate. To be fair, in the murder department, Philadelphia bested Chicago, which has become notorious for its bloodshed, by a hair last year, logging 15.9 murders per 100,000 to the Windy City’s 15.2 in 2013 (Camden’s homicide rate was 44 per 100,000, among the highest in the nation, while New York’s was just 4 per 100,000).
Despite all the factors working against Philly snagging the honor, the alternately sleepy and violent burgh has its boosters, chief among them a Rep. Robert Brady (D–Philadelphia) who says the city hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000 and could take care of the conservatives’ rivals across the aisle, no problem.
“We are, without question, able to host the DNC and to do a good job,” said the Congressman. “We’ve done it before.”
Brady also held his tongue when given an opening to lash out at his competitor city, going so far as to invoke a regional pride in an attempt to redirect the rivalry to some of the other 14 cities vying for the privilege of hosting.
“I would root for you over one of those West Coast cities,” said the amenable pol, adding that he once attended a boxing match at the Barclays Center and enjoyed every minute of it.
Brady reserved his outright ridicule for Columbus, Ohio, another candidate in the running to accommodate the electoral bash.
“Do you know anyone who has taken a tourist trip there?” he asked, rhetorically. “I didn’t think so. There’s nothing to see.”
For Brooklyn, a pitch for the convention comes at a time when hotel and retail development in the area around Barclays Center is in full swing. By the time of the convention in the summer of 2016, many of the projects currently under construction, such as the restoration of Brooklyn Heights’ Bossert Hotel, the chain-store overhaul of 505 Fulton St., and the 13-story Hampton Inn on Flatbush Avenue Extension Downtown, will be completed.
“Brooklyn has the space, the culture and the nightlife to make any convention a success,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “I cannot think of a better place to hold a national convention.”
Not content to cede the last word, Brady insists that the hometowns of Jay Z and Will Smith can go blow for blow.
“We’ve got great hotels like you. We’ve got great restaurants like you,” he said. “We’ve got our tradition and our heritage, and you’ve got yours,” he said. “We’ve got cheese-steaks, and you’ve got corned beef.”