(January 19, 2022) — Sources close to State Senator Andrew Lanza, the longest-serving Republican in the chamber, say that he is preparing to endorse a plan being privately advanced by Governor Kathy Hochul to make Staten Island a stand-alone municipality, entirely independent of New York City.
Hochul wants Staten Island to elect its own Mayor, Treasurer, Clerk, and a nine-member City Council. Those officials will have jurisdiction over the island’s municipal housing, public transit, schools, police, and fire services, which will be ‘spun-out’ of New York City’s Manhattan-centric administrative bureaucracy. If the plan materializes, Hochul would appoint a special master to administer that restructuring, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months to execute, and a special election for those offices would be scheduled for November of 2023.
The new City of Staten Island would have a population of just over 500,000 residents and would be New York State’s second-largest city with a GDP of more than $15 billion annually.
If Lanza is able to deliver the votes of his Republican caucus in the State Senate, Governor Hochul is willing to whip Democrat votes in the chamber and insist on a vote in both houses of the legislature prior to a final state budget deal, due on April 1st.
The deal highlights how pivotal Staten Island is to a Republican gubernatorial victory. In order for a Republican to win statewide in New York, a candidate would have to drive up turnout Upstate, solidly win Staten Island, and win the suburbs of New York City by a 2-to-1 margin.
Although Hochul is not insisting that the Staten Island Republican Party formally endorses her gubernatorial candidacy in exchange for her political support — which would doom any Republican gubernatorial candidate in the General Election — it’s widely believed that merely the collaboration between the Governor and Senate Republicans would yield huge political gains for Hochul on the Island.
“Governor Hochul believes in decentralized decision making and empowering folks where they are, in their own local communities,” a political operative loyal to Hochul explains. “She believes very deeply in participatory self-government, and wants to actively ‘decentralize New York’.”
“She was a Town Board member and a County Clerk,” he notes. “She shares so many frustrations regarding red-tape in Albany.”
Hochul and Lanza would like a vote in the State Legislature prior to a state budget deal.
Sources say Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie have no strong feelings about Staten Island and are expected to be receptive to a stand-alone municipality — or will be receptive to the possibility in the context of state budget negotiations.