Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1992

Abstract

On January 1, 1898, amid fanfare and celebration, the city of Greater New York – "the greatest experiment in municipal government the world has ever known" – was born. The consolidation of the cities, counties, and towns on the New York State side of New York Harbor into one great metropolis was a capstone to one century of rapid economic and population growth and a fitting harbinger of a new century of urban greatness for the region and, indeed, the nation. Now, with another century mark approaching, there is a distinct possibility that the City of New York, already beset by a host of economic and social ills, may not make it to its own centennial intact. The New York State legislature has authorized the residents of one of the five boroughs – Staten Island – to initiate a process of secession and incorporation into a separate city of their own.

The secession of Staten Island has elicited a host of divergent reactions, ranging from the hyperbolic to the humorous. The proponents of secession, seeing themselves currently relegated to a "neo-colonial status" by an inattentive City government, dot their manifestoes with references to the American Revolution, Lithuania, the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain, and "the tide of freedom ... rolling across Europe and Asia."' New York City's Mayor Dinkins has warned of secession as "a step into the night, along a treacherous and foggy path that has never been taken." Many press accounts, by contrast, have found the matter risible, labeling Staten Island's move a "sitcom secession" and conjuring up images of Fort Sumter on the Hudson and City troops charging across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn to put down the rebellion of the "Confederate States of New York."

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