There have long been two parts to New York State. The first one is around New York City, which is nearly a state unto itself. The other is what is termed “upstate,” which runs from the areas people in New York City commute from all the way up to state capital Albany and west to Buffalo and Lake Erie. A state senator wants to break New York State into two states, which would make the area around the city a state on its own.
State Senator Daphne Jordan wants the breakup. Jordan is not alone. Republican Assemblyman Stephen Hawley began a similar drive earlier this year. Former New York City council member Peter Vallone Jr. has made a related proposal. A group called Divide NYS Caucus also is working on the project.
Jordan’s proposal is that the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties become a new state. Nassau is all of Long Island. The other counties are just north of New York City. This would leave 53 counties upstate spun off into a new state of their own. This region includes the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. It would also include all of the counties that border Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Jordan’s proposal has been put into a bill. In part it reads, “This legislation would create a working group that would study the short and long term economic ramifications, including economic opportunities, of splitting the state.” According to the bill, “It would also examine the legal ramifications and precedents for dividing the State into two parts, and would determine the ‘up front cost’ of doing so, such as creating two new State government apparatuses.” Under federal law, the arrangement would need to be approved by Congress.
The new state made up of the New York City area would have a population of about 12 million. The upstate state would have a population of 7.5 million. For the most part, the residents of the two regions are parts of completely different economies. Among other things, much of upstate New York is rural. Upstate residents object to their tax dollars going to support New York City. New York City is the financial capital of the world, one of its most cosmopolitan cities and the home of some of the world’s greatest income inequality, a mix of billionaires and hundreds of thousands of people who live below the poverty line. People who live upstate believe that these tax dollars could be better spent developing jobs in both rural areas and aged industrial cities, including Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Some of these cities have lost over half their population since the manufacturing boom of the 1950s to 1970s.
New York is not the only state where this kind of proposal has been made. Some legislators in California support a move to split the state into a northern part, which would include San Francisco, and a southern part, which would include Los Angeles. Some politicians in Texas would like to see it split into five states.
A look back of a century shows that states were formed along geographic and political lines. Those standards no longer exist in many cases. Whether the New York State proposal goes forward, it has a certain logic. That is true in this state and in several others.