By Michael O'Connell & Anna Sekula Posted November 5, 2008, 12:23 PM EST
The election may finally be over, but most New Yorkers are just starting to sober up to the reality of a new administration—and from all of the election viewing parties held throughout the city last night. Outdoor broadcasts from major networks NBC, ABC, and Fox News all turned into massive public events, while political organizations like the New York Young Republicans, the New York Democratic Committee, and Congressman Charles Rangel all held partisan rallies to watch the returns. Media outlets like The Washington Post, Slate, The New York Times, Glamour, and GQ even joined the celebrations with private and ticketed events set up in bars, restaurants, and other venues.
Based on crowd size alone, NBC News and MSNBC probably win for biggest party. The networks saturated their Rockefeller Plaza headquarters with red, white, blue, and NBC’s signature peacocks. Sponsor Liberty Mutual placed booths throughout the space where the throngs of onlookers to relax, while people dressed as elephants and donkeys posed for photos. The expectant crowd watched the blue and red banners race up the General Electric building towards the key 270 votes, and a full map of the United States displayed on the skating rink colored states red or blue when NBC News officially called them for either Obama or McCain.
Fox News didn’t have the luxury of an iconic location. Its Avenue of the Americas studio sits on a corner like any other, so to draw pedestrians to the makeshift theater erected on the sidewalk, staffers in Fox swag invited passersby to join the “party” with giant paddles for tickets. The invite-only area had a large screening area and JumboTron, vendors handing out complimentary pretzels and hot dogs, and cardboard cutouts of Fox anchors. Network personalities loomed over the scene in the “strategy room,” where they broadcasted from throughout the night.
The networks didn’t have a monopoly on public events though. New York supporters of Barack Obama turned out in droves for a rally-like viewing in Harlem. Held outside the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building Plaza, the event was hosted by Democratic Congressman Charles B. Rangel. Hundreds filled bleacher seating on the east side of the plaza, facing a large video screen from Transit Image mounted on a trailer at the west end.
Local residents, out-of-towners, and news crews alike watched CNN's live coverage of the night's returns, while entertainers drummed up excitement with shouts like “What's his name? Obama!” on a stage embellished with flags and red, white, and blue balloons. Others took the opportunity to sell buttons, T-shirts, and even photos with a cardboard cut-out of the Illinois senator.
When the network announced the results at 11 p.m., the scene turned into a block party, with the estimated 8,000 gathered erupting into cheers. As “Ain't No Stopping Us Now” blasted from speakers, the throngs spilled into 125th Street near the historic Apollo Theater as champagne and confetti sprayed into the air.
On the West Side, washingtonpost.com and Slate magazine hosted a private viewing party at Espace. A “thank you” of sorts to both Web sites’ largely New York-based advertisers, the party marked The Post's first election night effort in the city. “This was an opportunity for washingtonpost.com and Slate to take the excitement around elections normally found in D.C. direct to their top clients in New York,” said Washingtonpost/Newsweek Interactive communications director Kris Coratti.
The crowd took part in a variety of partisan and nonpartisan activities. Three artists stationed near the entrance turned guests into political cartoons, while those uninterested in exaggerated features posed in the free photo booth. Food stations called “Obama's Windy City” and “McCain’s Southwest Fiesta"—homages to the states they represent in the Senate—were set up on opposite sides of the room. Everyone came together in the middle, though, for an unbiased comfort-food buffet and a central bar, where servers poured cocktails into cups decorated with either elephants or donkeys.
The DJ frequently interrupted her set of popular and vaguely patriotic tunes to announce each state as the polls closed, and guests got constant information from a live stream of the washingtonpost.com's online coverage broadcast onto the west wall. Cheers and swiped party favors seemed to tip in Obama’s favor, as pretty much everything else did last night.