Why NYC Should Secede from New York State
This might sound like a crazy concept, but if you have even a basic knowledge of New York State politics, you will understand where I am coming from. If not, you might think I’m insane, and you might be correct. But it is my opinion that the city that never sleeps, with it’s unique political environment, should consider seceding from the rest of New York State.
Figure one: check out this election results map from Barack Obama’s re-election in the 2012 Presidential Election:
As you can see, there are many conservative pockets of upstate New York, especially in Western New York. However, this chart makes New York look more like a battleground state than a deeply divided territory. Now, let’s take a look at the results of the 2014 elections, where the Republicans took control of the Senate:
Wow. Do you see the deep division I am referencing? New York State is mostly conservative in regards to local elections, with only a few small islands of progressive liberalism, including of course, New York City and the surrounding area (excluding Staten Island, of course) Now, New York State has definitely not always been like this. The House elections in 2010 and 2006 had much less drastic divisions, although even during these years, the districts upstate had many close races, while New York City was, and still is, a one-party metropolis.
New York City has a growing population, almost 8.5 million people, with 20.1 million in the metropolitan area which includes Long Island, Westchester, and Eastern sections of New Jersey. Meanwhile, the population of the rest of New York State continues to drop, as their economy continues to suffer the devastating effects of de-industrialization. The total population of New York State is 19,570,261, meaning that the that New York City’s 305 square miles contain roughly 43% of the state population.
Check out the top fifteen states for population in the U.S, from Wikipedia:
New York City would be the 11th largest state if we decided to defect from the Empire State.
Population obviously isn’t the only factor to this secession argument. To demonstrate the deep political divisions between upstate and downstate New York, I am going to provide some examples of major issues that the New York City Council supports but the State legislature opposes.
Rent Control Laws
Rent Control is an important mechanism in a city with the highest rents in the country. This past legislative session, Republicans from Upstate New York opposed expanding these laws, actually letting them expire a few weeks ago, because they wanted to reform the system before expanding controls for the next eight years. Governor Cuomo made the process even harder, by linking the rent control renewal with an education tax credit to increase access to private schools, which is no surprise due to the interests who fund his campaigns.
Virtually the entire New York City Council is for strengthening these regulations, with many actually committing civil disobedience outside the Governor’s office in Albany, and the Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, urging Albany to pass the bill for stronger regulations. However, Republicans from Upstate New York blocked the vote until the end of the legislative session, and under pressure, passed a new agreement which has been characterized by many tenant advocates as a giveaway for landlords, with thousands of apartments estimated to be removed from rent regulations in the coming years.
$15/hour Minimum Wage
Mayor DeBlasio has previously stated that he supported raising the minimum wage, and ever since Los Angeles passed their wage increase has committed to $15 per hour by 2019. He also signed an executive order to increase the living wage to $13.13 per hour, and $15 per hour by 2019, which applies to commercial tenants at projects that receive more than $1 million in City subsidies. Many prominent members of the New York City Council also support this increase, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. In fact, a report released by Scott Stringer earlier this year revealed that this raise would put “$10 billion into the pockets of nearly 1.5 million workers.” So, if most of the politicians and residents in New York City support this increase, why is the minimum wage currently only $8.75 per hour?
Enter Andrew Cuomo, the “democratic” governor who tricked the Working Families party into supporting his re-election campaign. He supports raising the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour, and rejected the bill from Senate Democrats that would have phased in the $15 per hour minimum wage that workers across the country have been fighting for. Many business groups, unsurprisingly based in upstate New York, are vehemently against any increase beyond the current plan, which will only increase the wage to $9 per hour in the beginning of 2016.
One major schism which fuels this polarization between the five boroughs and the rest of New York State, is the massive cost-of-living difference. New York City can’t simply raise their minimum wage locally, like Seattle or Los Angeles, because the increase must be passed through the state legislature, which is worried about unfair competition for workers between New York City, and other cities upstate such as Albany and Buffalo.
To illustrate why we need a higher minimum wage, check out this difference in cost of living between New York City metropolitan area and other populous urban areas in the state, based on the cost-of-living calculator on bankrate.com:
It is pretty obvious why low-wage workers in New York City need an increase which is drastically higher than other areas of the state. After years of struggle, the New York State Wage Board has finally been holding hearings to increase the wages of fast food workers, but it’s clear that upstate New York is standing in the way of progress and a decent life for millions of workers who live in the most expensive city in the country.
In 2014, Governor Cuomo finally signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, which legalized medical marijuana in New York State. However, it is one of the most restrictive bills of it’s kind in the country, as patients with Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and other conditions are only allowed to have a thirty day supply of non-smokable preparations. Other restrictions include allowing twenty dispensaries to operate across the entire state, run by five organizations, where only five brands of medical marijuana can be sold.
Even though Medical Marijuana is legal in almost half of the United States, advocates from many organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance and Compassionate Care NY, had immense trouble in getting the law passed, as Governor Cuomo threatened to veto an earlier version which was similar to regulations in other states. Meanwhile, a majority of New York Democrats and Republicans were in support of legalizing the “drug” for medicinal purposes.
If most New York State residents wanted medical marijuana, why is there so much opposition? Why did Cuomo need to make the bill so restrictive? You guessed it, Senate Republicans who represent upstate New York, as well as Long Island, tried to block the bill many times because there were too many “unanswered questions” and they were worried that marijuana would end up in the wrong hands.
If New York City was a separate state with the city council as the official governing body, patients with terminal, painful illnesses would have had access to medicinal cannabis years ago. In fact, the city council actually went a step further, passing a resolution earlier this year which urged New York State to legalize and tax marijuana.
Public Transportation Funding
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which oversees the Metro-North Railroad, New York City Subways and Buses, and the Long Island Rail Road, has had many issues with finances in recent years, with a huge debt burden that all New Yorkers have been paying for with frequent fare increases. Much of this issue is their fault, but is being exacerbated as Albany refused to even consider their $14 billion capital budget during the latest legislative session, which is necessary for the expansion and upgrades of subway, rail, and bus services.
Governor Cuomo has stated many times that the MTA’s capital budget is bloated, and provides no indication that he would fund any part of their plan. New York State Senate Republicans have been against bailing out the MTA for years, and pushed through a repeal of a MTA payroll tax in 2012, which has also negatively effected the finances of the struggling agency. Meanwhile, the transit system in New York City is getting worse, and we are paying more every year in fare hikes.
While the issue of public transportation funding is more complex than upstate New York Republicans blocking initiatives of downstate New York democrats, it’s clear that many lawmakers don’t see the urgency in funding the MTA, since most of it’s operations are in the New York City Metro Area.
Do you see a common theme here? On major issues, the interests of the New York City Council and the residents they represent are continually blocked by the conservative politicians of Upstate New York and our center-right “Democratic” governor. However, many residents of the failing cities, towns, and villages of upstate New York feel the exact opposite, as if New York City actually has control over the politics of the entire state, and THEIR interests aren’t being represented.
In fact, there is a petition on Change.org called “New York State Voters : Create a 51st state OR Free Upstate New York from NYC control” with almost 7000 supporters. Check out the text from the petition:
Upstate NY taxpayers rights to self representation are currently crushed under NYC Voters boots. Something must be done. Join me, due to the enormous TOTAL concentration of voters in NYC the voices of a huge geographical area (UPSTATE NY) are silenced.
This must change.
Tail wagging the dog politics are inherently unfair to the dog.
Free Upstate NY.
OR Maybe it is time for a 51st State.
We Demand Emancipation from NYC. We demand our right to self govern.
In fact, there are also Facebook groups which have been growing in popularity, including Divide New York City and Upstate NY and Upstate NY Secede. While both the petition and Facebook groups are fueled by right-wing members who live north of the city limits, it’s clear that New York City residents would also benefit from separating these two diametrically opposed regions. So, why don’t we avoid the continuous gridlock which occurs every year in Albany, and the blood fued between the New York City Mayor and the Governor.
My fellow New York City residents, let’s fight to make our crowded city an autonomous urban area or maybe just maybe, the 51st state of the union.