What's changed since the DNC in 1992

Republicans arriving for their national convention are going to find that this is not Bill Clinton's New York City.

When Clinton got the Democratic nomination here in 1992, most police officers were carrying .38-caliber Smith&Wesson revolvers, and firefighters were blowing the air horns of their passing trucks in welcome.

The police dealing with the Republican convention this year likely will wear bulky body armor, tote ugly, rapid- fire rifles and have a protective face mask strapped on one hip and a semiautomatic pistol on the other.

If the police officers are off-duty, they may be seen with firefighters and other city workers demonstrating against a Republican mayor who has offered them salaries they consider insultingly low.

In addition to Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, formerly a registered Democrat, Gov. George Pataki, is a Republican.

In 1992, Democrat David Dinkins was mayor and Democrat Mario Cuomo was governor. If the police commissioner looks familiar, he should. It was Ray Kelly in 1992 and it is now.

Aside from security, the city remains the attraction it always was -- except now it is a great deal safer.

In1992, the city saw 2,020 homicides; last year there were 596, city statistics show. Times Square has been purged of its sex shows and in their place are blinding neon lights heralding family friendly attractions.

Subways are relatively clean, crowded with life and scrubbed of graffiti. There's a Starbucks on nearly every corner, as well as Pottery Barns and Gaps, just like those back in the delegates' hometowns.

Delegates this time around probably will want to stay and sightsee after the convention is over, predicted Guy Molinari, a prominent Republican and former Staten Island borough president.

His colleagues in Congress, where he served in the 1980s, still call him when they're coming to town and ask for tickets to shows, he said.

"I think the big decision delegates will make is how long they will stay and how much they can squeeze in," he said.

One thing that might give delegates a little more trouble than in 1992 are the large number of scheduled protests, said Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who was parks commissioner in 1992.

After all, the country now is embroiled in a controversial war, no one knows where the economy is headed, and the incumbent is in town.

"I seem to recall some demonstration [in 1992] that had to be moved to Times Square, but that was about it," Gotbaum said.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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