Rockaway seceding from New York City might not be such a crazy idea. Secession is often a last-ditch solution to longstanding problems. In fact, when a government consistently fails to serve the needs of the people, it’s almost inevitable. That’s how the United States was formed when we told England that we could do a better job governing ourselves. Secession, when done right, represents a beginning, not an end.
Rockaway wasn’t always part of the City. Prior to the consolidation of “Greater New York City” in 1898, the Rockaway Peninsula was part of the Town of Hempstead, then a part of Queens County. Was that a good idea? In retrospect, probably not.
You don’t have to look far for examples of how little regard the City has for Rockaway. For decades we have been a dumping ground for the City’s elderly, sick and poor. Our road infrastructure has been in decline for decades, public transportation is a joke and City Hall thought nothing of keeping over 300 acres of beach front property vacant for almost a half century.
When are we going to say enough is enough and realize that the current governmental structure is not working for us? When are we going to get tired of asking City Hall for things we can provide for ourselves? When are we going to take responsibility for ourselves?
You may remember a secession movement in Staten Island. Residents there were disgruntled over getting dumped on (literally) as well as in need of inexpensive transportation (sound familiar?). In 1993 they approved a nonbinding referendum to secede from the City. Over Mayor Dinkins objections, the State Legislature approved their right to secede through the approval of a new city charter, which would make Staten Island an independent city.
The initiative ended with the election of Rudy Giuliani as mayor that same year. The new mayor repaid the strong support he received from SI voters by granting that borough’s two biggest grievances the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill and making the Staten Island Ferry free.
Looking about 10 miles to the east is the independent City of Long Beach, part of Nassau County, with a population of 34,000 in four square miles. Rockaway has a population of about 130,000 in nine square miles. When residents of the City of Long Beach need something done they get together in Long Beach to figure out how to do it. When Rockaway residents need something we go to a powerless Community Board who goes begging to City Hall, hat in hand.
Taking personal responsibility for ourselves and our community is the cornerstone of good lives and good government, but it’s hard when the entire decision making is done in Manhattan. Besides the geographic challenges, we have almost no political power.
Our two seats represent less than four percent of the votes in the City Council! Worse, the 31st District (Rockaway east) shares representation with Rosedale, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens, while the 32nd District (Rockaway west) includes Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill, and Woodhaven. So in actuality, Rockaway residents carry no more than two percent of NYC’s political weight. Is it any wonder that we consistently get the short end of the stick? Got an idea or creative story you want to share? Send it to RickHoran@IdeasImprov.com