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Clintons Support de Blasio's Push to Bring Democratic Convention to Brooklyn

She goes to Broadway musicals. She shops at Bergdorf Goodman. She works in Midtown Manhattan and spends summers on the shores of Long Island. Hillary Rodham Clinton has never been more of a New Yorker than she has since she left the State Department a year and a half ago. And if she runs for president in 2016, she would appreciate a Democratic National Convention on her home turf.

It has been 22 years since Bill Clinton accepted his party's presidential nomination to the backdrop of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" and raucous applause at Madison Square Garden. Now, both he and Mrs. Clinton are said to be encouraging Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to bring the convention back to New York City, this time to Brooklyn, the haven of liberal cool.

Pedestrians walk past the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Members of the Democratic National Committee's Technical Advisory Group will arrive in the city next week to hear the mayor's pitch about why Brooklyn would better serve the party than the other locations in the running: Birmingham, Ala.; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; and Phoenix. The decision will be announced late this year or early next year.

Before Mr. de Blasio began his bid to win the convention — and the money spent by donors, delegates and members of the international news media that come with it — he made sure he had the Clintons' blessing, said three people familiar with the discussions, who spoke anonymously because they could not comment on the record about private conversations.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton declined to comment. Mr. de Blasio's senior adviser, Peter Ragone, said the convention bid "is about showcasing" New York, not any candidate in particular.

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But at a gathering with corporate executives at City Hall last week, according to one person who was there, Mr. de Blasio said it would be a "perfect scenario" were Mrs. Clinton, who represented the state in the United States Senate, to accept the nomination in New York, with the convention itself turning into a "homecoming."

The city's bid is being spearheaded by veteran Clinton hands, including Gabrielle Fialkoff, who served as finance director for Mrs. Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign, which Mr. de Blasio managed. Other Clinton supporters, including the financier Alan Patricof, a longtime friend and donor to the Clintons, attended the briefing last week at City Hall.

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In a 49-page proposal presented to Democratic officials and business leaders, and obtained by The New York Times, Mr. de Blasio lays out his vision to transform Brooklyn into a weeklong Democratic fete, at a cost to taxpayers of $8.1 million. The city wants to raise an additional $132 million in private donations.

The convention would be held at the Barclays Center, home to the Nets basketball team, and private ferries would shuttle delegates and donors from Manhattan across the East River to Downtown Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, an industrial park one and a half miles from the arena, has been considered for a media center. Celebrity athletes and actors would accompany delegates to Broadway shows and museums, and the city is even proposing a special subway MetroCard for convention week, though officials declined to elaborate on the details.

Traditional wisdom holds that political conventions should take place in crucial battleground states. For their convention, Republicans have already selected Cleveland, which Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, called "a great steppingstone to the White House in 2016."

No Republican has carried New York State since Ronald Reagan in 1984. But if the state lacks an electoral advantage for the Democrats, New York City can more than make up for it in political optics, campaign strategists said. That was the Republicans' thinking going into the 2004 campaign when the party chose New York to nominate President George W. Bush for a second term, in part because of the symbolism of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Brooklyn itself has its own advantages. In 2016, Mrs. Clinton will be 69, but the borough, seen as a hipster bastion, would give any nominee "a youthful, forward-looking appearance," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant who has worked for her. Brooklyn is also a touchstone for millennial voters and the party's liberal wing.

(Though her husband has been spotted at the occasional Nets game, Mrs. Clinton is much more a creature of Manhattan and its upscale northern suburb of Chappaqua, N.Y. During the 2008 Democratic primary, she promoted hometown ties to Chicago; Little Rock, Ark.; and New York, depending on where she was campaigning.)

The Clintons have not discouraged bids by other potential host cities, particularly Philadelphia, where their close friend, former Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, is spearheading its entry. The competition has touched off the kind of New York-Philly rivalry that is typically reserved for professional sports teams.

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"I don't think Bill and Hillary Clinton could possibly be that politically naïve," Mr. Rendell, who also served as Philadelphia's mayor, said in an interview. "New York is a solidly blue state that never votes Republican. Pennsylvania is a swing state whose margins are closer and closer. Where would you go?"

There is also the risk that Brooklyn could come across to a national audience as a progressive parody, more closely associated with the fictional world of the HBO series "Girls" than with the realities of everyday Americans. The Barclays Center has luxury suites inspired by the hip-hop impresario Jay Z and would offer the thousands of delegates locally sourced wine, artisanal cheese and fish tacos. The arena could also showcase valet parking for bicycles and a green rooftop garden.

"You think Philadelphia thinks Brooklyn is the center of youth culture? You people in New York City might see it that way, but Brooklyn has huge problems," Mr. Rendell said. "No hotels. And how would you like to transport in the middle of rush hour thousands of delegates from Midtown to Brooklyn?"

Asked about Mr. Rendell's comments on Wednesday, Mr. Ragone replied, "Can you quote me shrugging?"

The Democratic committee said it would base its decision on each city's presentations, with a careful eye on plans to raise money, provide lodging, and transport delegates and other visitors. "People get wrapped up in the symbolism, but this is primarily a business decision," said Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for the committee.

In his convention campaign, Mr. de Blasio and his team have boasted of the city's 17,000 media companies, its 51,928 police officers, 700 miles of subway tracks, more than 100,000 hotel rooms — and the potential candidacy of one very influential New Yorker.

"He believes this will be a big economic and public relations boost for the city, particularly if Hillary Clinton is the nominee," Kathryn S. Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a business association, said in an email to potential sponsors.

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Others are not convinced that the convention will produce the type of revenue for the city that other marquee events bring in. "Democratic delegates are largely drawn from the working and middle class and aren't going to be spending at the level of Republicans," said Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University.

To accommodate the influx of convention-goers into Brooklyn, city officials propose cordoning off major traffic arteries in Manhattan, including portions of 42nd Street, Houston Street, the Bowery and, possibly, the Manhattan Bridge. In a city where residents bemoan anything that gets in the way of their daily commutes, the excitement of a convention could be met with cynicism (which Mr. Rendell said would not be shared by Philadelphians).

"The most important thing about a convention is that it runs well," said Paul Begala, a former adviser to Mr. Clinton. "How you run a convention becomes a metaphor for how you run your campaign, and how you'd run the country."

-- By Amy Chozick and Michael N. Grynbaum of The New York Times

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