Another bill for the secession of Staten Island, really?

New York City Councilman Joe Borelli wants Staten Island to have another chance to secede. The reactions so far seem to indicate that he will need a lot of luck to make the improbable come true.

Borelli, who represents city council district 51 that includes the south coast of Staten Island, filed a bill last month to “create a task force to study and report on the feasibility of an independent city of Staten Island.” This is the second time the Republican minority leader is proposing such legislation after his first attempt in 2019 failed.

This is also one of many occasions when representatives of the island have drafted bills or suggested the idea that the city’s least populated borough would become a city itself since New York City was consolidated in 1898. The closest thing to Staten Island secession was in 1993 when two-thirds of Staten Islanders voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to secede. However, the implementation was blocked by then Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and the movement died out.

Now that the idea of ​​Staten Island secession is resurfacing, the question is why now?

“The desire of Staten Islanders to secede or at least explore has not gone away, I think,” Borelli said. “I’m a brazen separatist and I think we’re better off alone. The city is moving in a direction that a lot of Staten Islanders wouldn’t agree with, and I think we’d rather have a different style, maybe a different size of government.”

Borelli added that the past year has been an example of how Staten Islanders think differently from the rest of the city. This included a lack of confidence in the education system under then-school chancellor Richard Carranza about things like having merit-based specialized high school entrance exams and eliminating gifted and talented programs. Higher taxes and expensive budgets also play a role, he said.

The councilor is not alone. Assembly member Michael Reilly, who represents the South Shore and parts of the Mid-Island and serves as the leading minority member of the Assembly Cities Committee, said he thinks it’s worth re-studying.

“I think it comes up again and again because there’s always that Staten Islanders feeling (feeling) like the stepchild of New York City,” Reilly told City & State. “And it always seemed that way, and I think that’s what always brings this to the fore, where there’s something about justice in this town…and often Staten Island is left out. I think that’s why the idea of ​​separation comes up. There is always the sense that Staten Island is an afterthought.”

But there are some who are not too optimistic about secession, including Vito Fossella, president of Staten Island Borough, who backed it in 1993. While he’s open to the idea that Staten Island “sets its own destiny,” the borough president pointed out that there’s more to the story of how the city interacts with the city and who really makes the decisions about tackling crime and economic activity. issues.

“You see the mayor trying to tackle crime in a more meaningful way,” Fossella said. “And his hands are tied, the police and others are tied because of what is happening at the state level. You’re almost to the point of, ‘Well, if we’re going to secede, let’s think about secession from New York State!’”

Fossella was referring to the recent state budget that stunned New York Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s union leaders.

Fossella also said he believes there is an ebb and flow about the idea of ​​secession, mainly because of the quality of life in New York City. He recalled that in 1993, high crime and homelessness fueled the desire for secession, but that diminished as the city became safer and Staten Islanders became more willing to venture into the other boroughs. But as Borelli has pointed out, crime is on the rise again and so is the interest in secession.

But separation may not be a big enough problem for the city. Richard Flanagan, who teaches public policy at the College of Staten Island in the early 1990s, was the then head of government. Mario Cuomo secured Staten Island votes by surrendering to then-state senator John Marchi, known as “the father of secession,” with support for secession so he could get votes for Cuomo from the island. When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he appealed to Staten Island voters without ever opposing secession. When Giuliani later tackled crime while in office, the thought of secession faded. “All these reasons are gone now,” Flanagan said.

“There’s really no hope of reviving a Republican merger ticket in New York City,” he added, citing Mike Bloomberg’s mayoralty as an example. “I can’t imagine a Republican merger or a right-wing Democrat that still depends on Staten Island votes. So now they are really forgotten, and it is unlikely that (anyone) will ever forward a secession plan.”

If Borelli’s legislation for a task force on the feasibility of secession were to be formed, there would be much to explore. Reilly said secessionists will have to explore how Staten Island would acquire resources for a police department, sanitation department and education department, along with getting employees to work in them. There is also the question of what happens to current city employees, who could then become Staten Island employees? And what would happen to their city pensions and health insurance?

Reilly said he is concerned about who will lead and oversee the task force. “If not done correctly, we can be set for failure,” he said. “I think if we have the right people looking at it … as long as there are people making decisions that are well-intentioned and consider all the things that are necessary, it can be a smooth transition.”

It also depends on what the state decides to do. Staten Island secession plans remain up to the state, no matter what happens at the city level, noted Joseph Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College, who served as director of the charter committee in 1992. If there was still an overwhelming vote for secession, the next steps would be decided by state legislation that would require the support of the governor, who would then likely kick it back to the city, deferring house rule.

“It will then be in the hands of the city council,” Viteritti said. “The governor will ask the municipality for advice.”

When City & State reached out to Adams’s office for comment, press secretary Fabien Levy said in an emailed statement: “Mayor Adams is a mayor of five boroughs, not a mayor of four boroughs, and Staten Island is just as fond of New York City like any other town.”

A spokesman for City Council chair Adrienne Adams, when asked about Borelli’s legislation, replied: “Like all legislation, Councilor Borelli’s bill is going through the process. We are currently evaluating.”

Borelli remained convinced that secession could take place for Staten Island, saying he doesn’t believe the city’s ebbs and flows should play a part in the movement. At the same time, he disagreed that Staten Island’s complaints were unique, noting that other parts of the city, such as South Brooklyn and parts of Queens, shared similar sentiments about issues such as rising crime. He has also examined the economies of several US cities, such as Miami and Atlanta, and international cities such as London by looking at the budget documents of those cities. In a series of videos he posted on Twitter in Mayhe explained how if those cities could provide their services with less taxes than Staten Island now pays, the municipality could afford to be its own city.

Fossella echoed Viteritti about who really determines Staten Island’s chances of becoming its own city, despite what Staten Islanders say they want.

“The people of Staten Island were misled by state officials in 1993,” Fossella said. “Can (separation) happen? Yes, depending on the dynamics, depending on the makeup of who’s in the Assembly, who’s in the Senate, who’s the governor. You never know. I just feel like we’ve seen this movie once before.”