Preparations for the Democratic National Convention here Aug. 11-14 are taking place against a background of continuing strained relations between President Carter and the official host of the convention, New York Mayor Edward I. Koch.
While carpenters are busy hammering together the podium and press booths in Madison Square Garden, the Carter administration has yet to nail down the mayor's complete support. And sources close to Mr. Koch are saying that the President is in serious danger of losing New York State in November.
Those running the Carter campaign "have not done what they should be doing," says one top Koch aide. "They have not paid enough attention to New York. If Carter loses New York, he's had it."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy defeated Mr. Carter by nearly 2 to 1 in New York's Democratic presidential primary, in large measure because the Carter administration had alienated both Jewish and minority voters, although for different reasons. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, won handily over George Buch in the Republican primary.
Mayor Koch will take full advantage of his position as convention host to lambaste the President's urban policies, sources close to him say. The mayor, who will deliver the convention's first night welcoming address, is armed with a full set of recommendations for change.
But the mayor, sources say, will under no circumstances endorse Senator Kennedy, even though the senator's urban policy platform recommendations are more akin to his own than are Carter's.
New York City has an enormous economic stake in the convention. It is spending $2 million of its own money on renting the Garden and $2 million more on convention construction within it.
But according to the most conservative City Hall estimate, the city's business community should take in an additional $30 million during the week of the convention, starting Aug. 10.
The extra thousands of dollars the Koch administration is spending to provide facilities at the Garden for the Kennedy camp could be returned many times over, some observers say, if Kennedy forces are able to push through platform changes pledging more aid to cities.
On a recent of tour of construction activities outside the main arena at Madison Square Garden, John Fernbacher, press secretary for the convention itself, pointed to the space earmarked for the Carter and Kennedy trailers."To the left will be Kennedy's; to the right, Carter's," Mr. Fernbacher said with a smile.
Besides costing the city more in preparing the convention facilities, the Carter-Kennedy rivalry is costing the Democractic Party and the two camps too. "The Democratic Party is spending about $3 million on staffing and trailers," Mr. Fernbacher said. This amount includes 80 "press aides." Only about 40 would have been needed had there been no Kennedy-Carter split, he explained.
On the accommodations front, the Carter staff is scheduled to stay at the Abby-Victoria Hotel, while the Kennedy staff is booked into the more luxurious Waldorf-Astoria. President Carter and his closest aides, however, are supposed to be at the Sheraton Center Hotel, where he stayed when he won the nomination in 1976. The hotel was called the Americana then.