Staten Island Advance:  Borelli, Matteo to introduce Staten Island secession bill Tuesday; Debi Rose opposed to bill and push for borough to secede

Staten Island Advance: Borelli, Matteo to introduce Staten Island secession bill Tuesday; Debi Rose opposed to bill and push for borough to secede

By Sydney Kashiwagi | skashiwagi@siadvance.com | December 9, 2019

STATEN ISLAND — Councilman Joe Borelli will formally introduce legislation in the City Council Tuesday that would put together a task force to study whether Staten Island could secede from New York City.

The bill is being co-sponsored by fellow Island Councilman Minority Leader Steven Matteo (R-Mid Island) and Borelli says other Island leaders like Borough President James Oddo also support the legislation.

But the legislation is moving forward without the support of fellow Island City Councilmember Debi Rose (D-North Shore), whose office says was not contacted by Borelli to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill and does not support his legislation nor the prospect of Staten Island seceding.

However, she could not immediately be reached to elaborate on why she is opposed to Staten Island secession.

Under Borelli’s legislation, the secession task force would be comprised of the borough presidents of every borough, the chair of the city’s Planning Commission, the comptroller, the school’s chancellor, the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, the Staten Island borough commissioner for the Department of Transportation and representatives from all of the Island’s community boards.

Borelli said the commission would then have 18 months to put together data showing the “impact and viability” of secession and then pitch their findings to the City Council.

“I am introducing this legislation (Tuesday) to get the process started and take the first step toward a true, thorough, and open assessment that the people of Staten Island and New York City can use as a blueprint for making an informed decision on any future ballot proposals for Staten Island to become an independent city,” Borelli said.

“With nearly 500,000 residents, Staten Island would be the second largest city in New York, at about double the size of the third largest, Buffalo. We are on the short end of any net positives coming out of city hall like major infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, fast ferries, and subways, and we almost always represent a disproportionate share of generating revenue for New York City. Maybe it’s time that we make a serious effort to distance ourselves from city hall and to put Staten Island first,” Borelli continued.

Borelli and Matteo are the only Council members who support the bill in the City Council so far and the South Shore councilman says he has not yet asked other Council members outside of Staten Island to support the legislation.

SOME REMAIN SKEPTICAL

Though Borelli is optimistic about his secession push and says other Island lawmakers have expressed interest in the endeavor in private, some who studied secession nearly 30 years ago have been skeptical about whether his efforts will actually go anywhere.

Staten Island tried to secede from New York City in 1989, in an effort that was led by Republican Sen. John J. Marchi.

That year, the state Legislature passed a measure signed by then Gov. Mario Cuomo authorizing a study and initiating the process for Staten Island to secede from New York City on the last day of its legislative session.

Staten Islanders voted overwhelmingly in favor — 83 percent — of a secession study and by 1991, Cuomo swore in a New York State Charter Commission for Staten Island.

Two years later, in 1993, Staten Islanders approved — 65 percent — a non-binding referendum to secede from New York City and the state Senate also approved a secession bill.

But those efforts came to a halt when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to allow a similar measure to be voted on in the Assembly without a “home rule message” from New York City.

The city never held a secession vote and the measure for Staten Island to secede died in committee.

It’s still unclear whether Borelli’s secession push today will get anywhere.

Similar to the decades-old fight, Borelli said seceding would require a home rule approval from the city and the state would need to be on board too because only the state legislature can form or abolish a county.

MAYOR IS OPPOSED

Mayor Bill de Blasio is vehemently opposed to the Island seceding from the rest of the city and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has left little doubt that he would oppose secession efforts.

Last month, the offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the state the Senate’s Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins both declined to comment on whether they supported secession.

And the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo was reached but did not provide comment on where the governor stood either.

“Secession is a complicated undertaking and any talk of moving forward must first begin with the need to fully understand the costs and consequences. Empaneling a task force to study this issue can help inform us whether this is feasible and give us a more comprehensive picture of what an independent Staten Island may look like,” said Matteo.

Read the article on the Staten Island Advance website at https://www.silive.com/news/2019/12/borelli-matteo-to-introduce-staten-island-secession-bill-tuesday-debi-rose-opposed-to-bill-and-push-for-borough-to-secede.html