Tired of being treated like second-class citizens and angry over migrants being bussed to shelters in their borough, Staten Island taxpayers are demanding secession from New York City.
Leading the charge is Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y. who said in a recent NY1 interview, "I think Staten Island would like to have an opportunity to self-govern. The reality is the city council and the state Legislature would need to let Staten Island go. I hope they do reconsider this."
She added, "I hear all the jokes all the time that they would love to get rid of Staten Island, well, this is [their] opportunity."
I agree with the congresswoman.
In fact, back in 1993, when I ran for mayor of New York City on the Conservative Party line, I endorsed the movement.
At first I was leery about a separation. But after extensive campaigning in Staten Island, I realized it is different from the four inner city boroughs.
It is suburban just like Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester counties.
If those burbs can have home-rule, why not Staten Island?
But before proceeding any further, here’s some historical background:
On Election Day 1894 voters in the New York’s metropolitan area approved the consolidation of five boroughs into the "Greater City of New York."
The victory was a narrow one — 176,170 for 131,706 against.
Conscious of the fragile mandate, the New York State Legislature dragged its feet for three years before approving a new governmental entity.
Why the delay?
The political bosses in the five counties that would make up the city had to be placated.
Charter revisions in 1901 redefined the roles of the city’s major elected officials with the establishment of a power tier unique in local government — the Board of Estimate. Consisting of 22 votes, the board gave the mayor, city comptroller, and city council president four votes each, the five borough presidents two apiece.
The board’s formal powers were supreme.
It could supersede city council legislation and had control over the city’s finances, property, franchises, personnel, planning, and zoning.
Even with this unusual power structure Staten Islanders feared Manhattan’s giant shadow. In their view, that borough received the bulk of their government’s attention, energies and resources.
After a 1989 Supreme Court decision declared the Board of Estimate unconstitutional, the fears of Staten Island residents escalated.
They feared the absence of the board would severely curtail their cloud in City Hall.
And they were right.
Understanding his constituents’ mood, the borough’s revered state senator, John Marchi, introduced a bill to allow Staten Island to secede from the City of New York. Governor Mario Cuomo signed that legislation into law and the process began.
In November 1990, a ballot measure to commence a study of secession and legal procedures for separation was passed overwhelmingly with 83% of the total votes cast.
Then in 1993, 65% of Staten Island voters supported a non-binding secession referendum.
However, the creation of a new charter that would have made Staten Island independent, was killed by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly.
A new secession movement would have to go through the same laborious process.
And if successful Staten Islanders would have to quickly address a host of financial and administrative issues.
Let’s assume for the moment its residents do form a new government on Jan. 1, 2025. What happens?
Until it creates its own municipal work force, the new government would have to make contractual arrangements with New York City to continue providing various services including: police, fire, sanitation, water, education, and judicial.
It would have to lease or purchase buildings and equipment from New York City.
And let’s not forget the Staten Island Ferry — New York City would not be paying for that service anymore.
Then there’s the issue of the tax base needed to finance the operations of the new government.
Staten Island currently is 6.3% of New York City’s property tax base. The estimated actual value of the City’s taxable property in 2022 was $1.3 trillion.
Staten Island’s piece was valued at $83 billion while Manhattan’s came in at $443 billion, Brooklyn, $361 billion, Queens, $325 billion, the Bronx $78 billion.
These tax valuations mean the municipal services presently provided to Staten Island and the Bronx are subsidized by the other boroughs.
To make up for that loss, Staten Island’s new government would have to dramatically increase property taxes to help finance essential services.
Tax bills for single-family homeowners would be as exacting as those levied in Nassau and Rockland counties.
To raise additional revenue, officials would have to obtain the approval of the governor and state Legislature to increase its portion of the sales tax.
The price of independence will not be cheap.
Will it be worth it?
To get out from under the thumb of City Hall radical left-adherents who despise the conservative-minded Staten Islanders and enjoy making life miserable for them, I think so.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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