With a bit of artful tweaking, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.'s (D-Astoria) latest piece of legislation could read like a fairy tale or even a Shakespearean history play.
The plot would be simple: Beautiful but oppressed stepsister flees family's suffocating shanty to blossom on her own, or wealthy rogue duke defies tariff-hungry royals by founding his own kingdom.
Vallone is submitting his idea not to the literary elite but to the voters, whom he wants to decide whether New York City should consider seceding from New York state.
"The state has treated us like an unwanted orphan for too long," Vallone said in a statement Feb. 5. "It may be time for us to move out."
Vallone has drafted legislation he plans to submit sometime this month before the City Council that calls for the voters to decide via a November ballot question whether a commission should be formed to study "the separation of the city of New York from the state of New York."
Vallone's proposal is fueled by outrage over what he and other politicians are characterizing as a severe inequity between the amount of funding the city passes along to the state vs. the amount of aid it gets in return.
"If, at the end of the day, what this winds up doing is shining more light on the inequities that exist, then it serves a valid purpose," Vallone said of his proposal.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a radio interview Friday that the state would never give up its revenue from the city, while a spokesman for Gov. George Pataki said the idea was not worthy of a comment, according to published reports.
The 51st state could be called "Greater New York," Vallone proposed - although he may be open to suggestions. ("New-New York" comes to mind as does the culturally diverse "Nuevo New York.")
The idea is hardly a new one. In 1969 writer Norman Mailer and newspaperman Jimmy Breslin ran for mayor and city council president on a platform of seceding from the state.
Vallone's office has already been flooded with e-mails from city residents applauding the idea.
"I never thought it would hit this much of a nerve, but I guess people just realize just how badly we're being treated by the state," Vallone said.
One Manhattan resident told Vallone he was already constructing a Web site "for the organization and promotion of statehood for New York City," while a constituent from Woodhaven wrote that it's "absolutely an idea worth pursuing."
A writer from Albany appears to have fallen into a fairy tale himself: "Splitting up the Excelsior State and ending the Imperial reign of Albany may be noble," he wrote.
If the Council approves the ballot question and a majority of voters support it, a seven-member secession committee would be created and charged with drafting a constitution, which would be subjected to six months of public hearings before going before the voters. If the city said yes, the secession plan would have to get state and federal approval before anyone starts adding another star to Old Glory.
"It's a long process," Vallone said, "but I can't think of a better time to begin it."
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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