While it’s not a pressing issue to her personally, sources say that incoming Governor Kathy Hochul is open to state legislation that would make Staten Island a stand-alone municipality. That would allow the citizens of Staten Island to elect a government that would operate independently of New York City, in which a new City of Staten Island would be chartered to manage its public housing, schools, transit, and police.
The island is home to more than 500,000 people with a GDP of more than $15 billion.
Such a move would be widely seen as an attempt to woo Staten Island voters ahead of gubernatorial elections next year. The borough has long been a bastion of Republicanism, and Hochul wants to thwart a challenge from the right with a “policy-oriented charm offensive” designed to endear her to constituencies that a general election opponent must win to be competitive.
The state legislation being contemplated would establish elected offices of a Mayor, City Treasurer, City Clerk, a seven-member City Council that will include two at-large seats, and various City Court judgeships.
“If the Republicans find most of the votes in the State Legislature, Hochul would be willing to sign the law and will encourage Democrats in the Legislature to support it as well,” an associate familiar with her thinking confirmed. “She isn’t going to spend time and energy pushing for it, but if Staten Island pushes for it, she will have their backs — because she thinks that’s what good government does.”
“Kathy wants to empower local communities to govern themselves at the most local level possible,” he explains. “As a matter of principle, she believes in decentralized decision making and participatory democracy.”
Some Democrat allies of Hochul are concerned that allowing Staten Island self-government would give the Staten Island Republican Party an opportunity to elect candidates to those new offices, which might invigorate the organization with the municipal commissionerships and bully pulpits that come with it.