Staten Island Councilmen Really, Really Want Borough To Secede From NYC
There is some comfort in embracing the cyclical nature of life, whether it’s presidential elections coming every four years, Daylight Saving Time rearing its head twice a year, or how the Knicks’ season is over right on cue every November. Similarly, about every three to five years, some Staten Island city council members will band together and try to resurrect legislation for the borough to secede from the city. As a Cylon might put it, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
This time around, Republicans Joe Borelli and Steven Matteo are the ones behind the latest push to separate Staten Island, telling reporters that it’s past time for the “forgotten borough” to strike out on its own. “If the city wants to continue going in a radical progressive direction, please just leave us behind!” Borelli told The Post. “The city is fighting a war on the cars we need to drive and loathe police officers — many [of whom] live here. Why wouldn’t Staten Island want to secede?”
Borelli went into more detail with SI Advance, saying he plans to introduce two pieces of legislation by next month: “one would authorize the creation of a committee to look at what kind of government the Island would get if it were to secede and how much the effort would cost; the other would form a similar commission to study whether it is feasible to form county governments within NYC.”
“The city is 8.5 million people, we have a population the size of Austria, we have a budget the size of Ireland, we have more police officers in uniform then there are people in the entire Royal Navy…all of this stuff is governed by one human,” Borelli said. Staten Island has less than half a million residents, the smallest population among the five boroughs. “That is atypical in the United States of America.”
And of course, that one human is Mayor de Blasio, of whom Borelli is not a big fan: “It’s really is impossible to ignore the fact that this is happening in part because of Bill de Blasio,” he said. “There’s someone who is disinterested in governing New York City and even more so when it comes to Staten Island.”
As SI Advance notes, there are many reasons why secession would be overly-complicated or functionally implausible: between figuring out how to split capital debt with the city on various projects and facilities, and figuring out ownership and costs of the Staten Island Ferry and other city buildings, and deciding on bus service, and property taxes, and where to put a county jail, it all sounds rather unlikely.
This isn’t the first time Borelli has made such a push since coming into office: he last brought it up in 2016 in response to the initial Brexit vote. The idea was similarly floated in 2015, 2011, 2008, and several other times in the years before that, going back most famously to 1993. Back then, the vote for secession got 65% of the “Yes” vote, and Staten Island only remained a part of NYC due to Mario Cuomo‘s insistence that any referendum be approved by the state legislature. Then-State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver didn’t grant the island its independence, saying at the time he didn’t want to be the guy who broke up New York City.