Republican NYC Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli recently introduced legislation which would create a task force to study the feasibility of Staten Island leaving NYC to form its own municipality. The idea is nothing new. It has been advocated by previous generations of Richmond County elected officials going back generations before Council member Borelli was born.
Staten Island leaving NYC is easier said than done. This reminds me of the great idea put forward by the team of Norman Mailer for Mayor and Jimmy Breslin for NYC Council President in the 1969 Democratic mayoral primary. They proposed making NYC the 51st state. Consider the historic imbalance of tax dollars going to both Albany and Washington versus how much state and federal assistance accompanied by excessive unfunded mandates and requirements for spending the funds received in return, Big Apple residents would be better off keeping funds sent to Albany. Two U.S. senators could ensure a more equitable return of federal assistance to NYC. The same could be said for residents of Richmond County becoming its own city.
Residents of eastern Long Island have long wanted to leave Suffolk County and form Peconic County. Residents of Nassau and Suffolk County have wanted to leave New York State. Staten Island citizens have periodically dreamed of departing NYC. Peconic County, Long Island or Staten Island have much in common. Unfortunately, we all needed a favorable home rule message. This required the support of the late former liberal lower Manhattan Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver to initiate the process of secession. He and his predecessors have consistently denied this request for liberty.
Silver controlled 100 or more of 150 votes in the State Assembly. He ruled as boss via control of salary bonuses for chairing legislative committees, release of bills out of committee for a full vote, district office budgets for staff and mailings, along with control of the 2002 and 2012 reapportionments. The same is true under Bronx Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie. He controls 106 of 150 votes and 2022 reapportionment of district boundaries. Republican State Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay was more concerned about protecting his current 43 members than bringing a court challenge for a fair reapportionment. Republicans would have to keep the current 43 seats and win 33 more to regain control of the State Assembly.
Residents of Staten Island, Peconic County, Nassau and Suffolk counties will never achieve political independence without the removal of Heastie as Assembly Speaker. This can only be accomplished by Republicans regaining control of the State Assembly and Senate.
The last GOP State Assembly Speaker was Perry Duryea who served from 1969 to 1974. The resignation of President Nixon as a result of Watergate created a tidal wave in the 1974 election which resulted in Democrats gaining control of the State Assembly, going on 47 years. The last GOP State Senate Majority leader was Dean Skelos who served from 2011 to 2015. Current Democrat Senate Speaker Andrea Steward Cousins rules with an overwhelming 43 to 20 super majority. Even with news of a court ordered more fair reapportionment, overwhelming Democratic Party enrollment of 5,929,375 to 2,645,799 Republicans along with 152,669 Conservatives, 45,093 Working Families, 419,193 other parties and 2,713,757 Blank (No party affiliation) according to the latest February 21, 2022 State Board of Elections Enrollment numbers makes it virtually impossible for the GOP to recapture control of either chamber of the State Legislature.
Republicans would have to keep the current 20 seats and win 13 more to regain control of the State Senate. The current state political establishment including Democrats Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Governor Kathy Hochul, the Governor’s primary challengers Congressmember Tom Suozzi and Public Advocate Jumanne Williams, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Attorney General Letitia James, NYC Mayor Erik Adams, Comptroller Bruce Ladner, Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams have never voiced support for Staten Island secession. Councilmember Borelli and his beleaguered five member caucus within the 51 member NYC Council need to concentrate on more realistic goals instead of recycling old ideas which will never see the light of day.