Garden gets spruced up for GOP

Get ready to cue The Drifters' 1960 classic "This Magic Moment."

Electricians, carpenters and iron workers crawled above and below the floor of Madison Square Garden yesterday, tweaking mechanics of the Republican National Convention's "stage in the round" — the platform that will rise like a souped-up starship transporter at a magic moment, or moments.

To one side of the platform is the main pulpit for speakers, with the words "A Nation of Courage" emblazoned above it in white letters on a dark blue background.

Half the convention floor, elevated about nine feet above what normally is a basketball court or hockey rink, is covered with cushy, orange-red carpet.

Above and around the perimeter of the Garden, the huge signs of television networks and cable stations have been scoped out and put in place.

Overall, the activity inside the Garden put one in mind of Santa's Workshop a week before Christmas: lists being checked, the testing of lights, the buzz of electronic saws and the sound of nails hitting wood.

Concession stands that usually offer hot dogs, popcorn and cold beer have been transformed into "suites." The suites will be furnished with cherry furniture by Lane, burnished leather chairs and Oriental rugs, all of which sat wrapped in plastic in the hallways of the Garden.

"Everything is going well," said an employee of The Total Show by Freeman, organizers of the design, plan and production of the convention. He would not give his name and declined further comment about the pace of the work, citing security concerns.

Not many people would agree to be interviewed. Diana Taylor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's girlfriend, was spotted on the future convention floor checking on workers' progress.

For some of those who are making it happen, the transformation itself is like working magic.

"It's fantastic. If you came for the first time when it was just an open floor, to what it is now, you would be really amazed," said Cedric Charles, an iron worker from East Flatbush. "It's a metamorphosis. It's amazing that so much has been done in such a short time."

Bill Murphy, his colleague from Iron Workers Local 580, agreed — almost.

"It's incredible what has been done. But a lot of money has been spent on something that will last for only four days. Is it worth it? Probably not," Murphy said. "It pays the bills. But it's ironic we are doing all this work, considering most of us will be voting for Kerry."

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