Mayor: NYC Will Learn From 2004 RNC ‘Mistakes’

NEW YORK (AP) -

Brooklyn’s final pitch to hold the 2016 Democratic national convention was centered on New York City’s robust mass transit system — and a pledge to learn “from the mistakes” from the last time the city hosted a presidential convention.

The Republicans gathered in New York in 2004 to re-nominate President George W. Bush choosing to meet in deep-blue Manhattan less than three years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But nationally broadcast images of the early stages of rebuilding at the World Trade Center site were juxtaposed with footage of thousands of demonstrators outside Madison Square Garden, angry with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

The demonstrators frequently clashed with police, who herded them into holding pens and, at times, used orange mesh nets to control the crowd. More than 1,800 people were arrested, many of whom were held for more than a day in a decaying depot along the Hudson River.

Earlier this year, the city paid more than $18 million to settle civil rights claims stemming from those arrests. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, vowed Tuesday that the NYPD would better handle the demonstrators who would inevitably picket the event if Brooklyn hosts the Democrats in two years.

“We learned a lot, I think, from the mistakes of 2004 and we’ll do things in a way that reflects our values,” de Blasio said. “We believe thoroughly in the democratic process. I think we’re very good at accommodating people’s rights to free speech.”

The mayor also touted the city’s mass transit system. Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the proposed venue, sits atop a commuter railroad station and a massive subway station that connects nine lines.

“We wanted to show off today the nation’s largest, most efficient transportation system in the country. We’re very proud of it,” said de Blasio, who took the committee on a non-stop trip from Rockefeller Center to the arena in a subway car decked out in DNC logos.

But officials said it was not yet clear how the Secret Service security perimeter, often known as a “frozen zone,” would impact trains running in and out of the stations. In 2004, subway, commuter rail and Amtrak trains continued to run into Penn Station, which sits below Madison Square Garden, but did so with limited service and significant security measures.

But that same year the Democrats gathered at the now-TD Banknorth Garden in Boston and closed North Station underneath the arena, canceling both commuter rail and subway service.

Brooklyn is one of five finalists for the convention and is widely considered a co-favorite, along with Philadelphia, which is where the DNC committee will travel Wednesday. Other cities being considered include Columbus, Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala.