Staten Island secession? A new IBO report studies the age-old question

“Any serious study of how secession would play out proves that citizens of an independent Staten Island would end up paying more for less,” said Council Member Justin Brannan, who requested the study.

Staten Island residents protest a planned migrant shelter in 2023.

Staten Island residents protest a planned migrant shelter in 2023. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

What would seceding from New York City mean for Staten Island? Copious litigation, yawning budget deficits and a scramble to make up for lost economies of scale – building up its own municipal workforce, possibly creating new health care, education and corrections facilities, for example. 

That’s according to a new report from the city’s Independent Budget Office on the age-old topic of Staten Island potentially seceding from New York City. The bottom line, the report found, is that secession would be no simple task. “In short, secession is highly complex, would take many years to implement, and would either be more expensive for Staten Island residents, require an independent Staten Island to reduce benefits and services to residents, or both,” the report, which doesn’t take a position on secession, read.

This report was conducted following a request last year to the IBO from City Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents Southern Brooklyn. “In the beginning there was darkness – and then there were shadowboxing Staten Island politicians talking tough about seceding from New York City,” Brannan wrote in an email. “Cut off from the benefits of citywide sales and property tax, tourism revenue, and overall economic growth, a seceded Richmond County could not afford to provide police, fire, trash pick-ups, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other absolutely essential human services to its population without an insanely exorbitant increase in taxes just to maintain today’s status quo.”

But why is Brannan, whose current council district does not include a square inch of Staten Island, wading into the secession debate? Brannan didn’t explicitly say when asked why he requested the study on behalf of his neighbors across the Verrazzano. But rumors have swirled about the council finance committee chair making a bid for the congressional district that spans Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn when his term is up in 2025. Brannan hasn’t confirmed that he plans to run for that seat, which is currently held by Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, but he’s told City & State that people have encouraged him to run. Malliotakis recently raised the idea of secession again during pushback to the city’s placement of migrant shelters in the district. 

How much of a splash the IBO report will make on Staten Island is unclear. Republican Council Member Joe Borelli – one of three council members in the borough – didn’t find the report very enlightening. “The idea that anyone can predict what a government that hasn’t been elected yet will do is bizarre,” Borelli wrote in a text, noting that despite warnings back in the ’90s that taxes could go up if Staten Island seceded, 65% of residents voted in favor of secession in a 1993 referendum. “Guess what? The damned taxes went up anyway and we still have no say,” Borelli said.