By Bob Harris
Recent comments by City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) have again raised the idea of secession. The concept of one area separating from another is not new; the Civil War ensued after the South felt it was being treated unfairly by the federal Constitution and the North.
Vallone feels similarly about New York state’s treatment of New York City. One complaint is that upstate students receive an average of $9,810 in financial aid per student while New York City only receives $8,934 in financial aid per student.
Another complaint is that legislators refuse to reinstitute the commuter tax and the city pays for 25 percent of Medicaid expenses, which cost the city $3.1 billion per year. It bothers many people that the city sends to the state about $3.4 billion more in taxes than it receives in state aid.
Then there is the $1 surcharge on cell phones, paid by users since 1991, that was supposed to provide a tracking system so people who call for help from a cell phone can be easily located. The original law was amended to include broader functions, and the money has been used by the state police for “routine expenses.” More than $300 million in surcharges has “disappeared.”
We still don’t have a tracking system and four teens died when a boat sank in Long Island Sound off of City Island. This reminds me of the New York Lottery, which was approved by the voters for education and then later amended so the money now goes into the general funds.
When people get desperate, they make all kinds of suggestions. A few years ago Staten Island developed a secession idea. A couple years later some Queens civic leaders also proposed secession from New York City. These boroughs’ residents were unhappy with the level of funding for services and felt they weren’t being treated fairly. Secession supporters in Queens said the two airports and their associated businesses should have provided enough money to ensure proper services be maintained.
Many also are unhappy with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal to raise subway fare and remove workers from token booths. Since the MTA receives state money, this is another state activity of concern to city residents. I believe the governor chooses the head of the MTA. This tug-of-war between the state and the city is adding more steam to the secession debate.
And New York City is not the only area in the country with ideas of secession. There was a recent movement of the Valley in Los Angeles to secede from Greater Los Angeles. They permit referendums more easily than here in the East. There was a vote last December but since all of Los Angeles voted on the proposal, the Valley was outvoted and the proposal lost.
The Staten Island and the Queens ideas never came to a vote because the state has to vote to permit a referendum, and it never took place. We are one state, as we are one nation, so what affects one affects all; however, many in the city feel we are not being treated fairly by the state.
I hope the three power brokers in the state government can provide more services for the people of the city. I also hope they realize that the city lost 100,000 jobs after Sept. 11 with all the income that they brought to Lower Manhattan and the little businesses there.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
We had the fourth heaviest snowstorm in our history. The city and the Sanitation workers responded and did a very good job of cleaning the streets, but better control of the plows would have prevented six to eight from going down my street when three to four would have been enough. Overall they did a good job.
BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK
The Buildings Department gave summonses to store owners whose signs had been in place for years or decades. Now the Department of Transportation is giving summonses to people who have painted yellow stripes at the edges of their driveways to prevent cars from blocking homeowners’ vehicles from entering or leaving.
Being a homeowner with a driveway is very hard near those giant community facilities or commercial strips, so homeowners paint yellow lines on the curbs. The Buildings Department and DOT say they only give summonses when there is a complaint.
I can’t help wondering if the city isn’t trying to find new revenue sources since the state isn’t giving us enough money to provide services. There are $1,000 fines in both cases, which is a lot of money. I hope our council members can find a solution.