Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fifth Borough?

On my post about Staten Island, chrismealy commented that we could trade it for Bergen Neck, the peninsula in New Jersey just north of it. This is actually something I've been thinking about for years.

I've called Hudson County "the fifth borough" because Staten Island is so unlike the other boroughs. There's no real good reason why the Arthur Kill is the boundary between New York and New Jersey, rather than the Narrows. It's just a historical accident.

Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken share more history with Manhattan than Staten Island, and better transportation links. Development patterns in Hoboken resemble those in Greenwich Village, and those in North Bergen resemble Astoria. From the map above, it looks like car ownership is higher in Hudson County, but that may be misleading. I can't get census data below the municipality level, and there's probably a big difference between car ownership in Journal Square versus Greenville.

Or we could even just let Staten Island secede without any new territory. You could argue that we should preserve the differences in transportation regulations between New Jersey and New York that have shown us that private transit can work in the US if you regulate it right. That's the kind of argument that Chuck Marohn has been making on StrongTowns, and it makes sense to me. We shouldn't say no to annexing Hudson County, but I don't think we need it.

New York without Staten Island means two or three less car-obsessed City Council members. It means one less car-loving state senator, and four less assemblymembers, and that may be the biggest reason that the legislature voted against it when Staten Island voted to secede in 1993.

Letting Staten Island secede would probably mean transferring the Verrazano Bridge to the Port Authority. That would mean less toll revenue for the subways, but also a lot less of our city and state transportation money going to Staten Island's roads and bridges.

Really, though, it's not worth the effort to kick Staten Island out of the city. If they want to go, we should let them. But if they want to be part of the city, I'm okay with that. I just wish they'd start acting - and voting - like it.


oxfdblue said...

Too much of your money going to Staten Islands bridges and roads? Are you kidding? With the tolls we pay...for express buses that you can walk faster them, with 20-40 minutes waits the norm?

This post is arrogant, selfish, woefully misinformed and basically just stupid.

Unknown said...

My thoughts exactly. Just by looking at a map it's obvious that it should be part of New Jersey. And the resemblances don't end there...

jarod213 said...

It's not ignorant or arrogant. SI is generally anti-transit, anti-density, anti-urban. All things that bring municipal efficiency. Staten Island should be its own suburban county. While the tolls "you" pay are high, they are not floating the rest of the city's infrastructure costs.

Ferdinand Cesarano said...

I'd love to get rid of Staten Island (I wanted it to secede); and trading it for Hudson County is something I think about every time I ride my bike through the great cities of that county. If we had not been burdened with Staten Island, we never would have had Giuliani.

New York City would gain immensely by not having those City Councilmembers and state legislators around to screw things up for the other 94% of us. Also, if Staten Island seceded, it would surely re-open the dump as a means of obtaining revenue; and New York City could save money by not having to ship our garbage so far away anymore.

Alon said...

If New York had Hudson County, it wouldn't have any of those private buses, because it would have the same density of subway lines going west of Manhattan as going east of Manhattan.

*Not particularly hard to come up with an alt history in which the point of departure was that Britain didn't split New Jersey from New York. Nothing would change except locally.

Ian said...

This idea that makes so much sense economically, but is a really hard political trick to pull off.

SI is culturally and demographically really similar to the NJ towns on the other side of the Arthur Kill and to its south. And by being aligned with the Garden State, it would seem as less of an oddball for economic (and housing) development.

This could also bring lower tolls on the Outerbridge, Goethals, and Bayonne. (But a higher toll on the Verrazano to make up for it.)

NJ would also benefit from this in other ways. For example, if Jersey City and Hoboken became part of NYC, it might entice some firms (or some firms might receive incentives) to move their operations further west, providing the opportunity for development in and around Newark.

davistrain said...

Our country is full of state lines that were drawn over 150 years ago that don't make sense now, but changing them, and consolidating some states would step on political and bureaucratic toes. There is one proposal that would cut us down to 38 states--but we'd never convince 24 Senators to give up their seats.

neroden@gmail said...

davistrain: We'll fix the state borders after the revolution. One is coming within my lifetime, though I don't know how many decades it's gonna take.

MB94128 said...

Re: 38 States Proposal

A 38-State Nation ( page, based on The People's Almanac article, 1975)
[See also - C. Etzel Pearcy, Prof., Cal State L.A. ca. 1970's]

P.S. Here's some dessert for New Yorkers :
My Endless New York (Tony Judt, NYTimes op-ed., 7 Nov. 2010)

Adirondacker12800 said...

The thing to do is have New York City secede from New York State. Stop worrying about subsidizing suburban lifestyles in Staten Island and instead stop subsidizing rural lifestyles upstate.
New York State collects 60% of it's revenue in New York City which has 40% of the population. The suburbs of New York City account for the next 20% the state collects and account for 20% of the population. The rest of the state remits the last 20% of revenue and accounts for 40% of the population. Stop worrying about the trickle of money flowing to Staten Island and worry about the tsunami of money that flow upstate never to return.

Adirondacker12800 said...

.. when you rant about how suburban Staten Island is, it is compared to Manhattan, Park Slope or even Bay Ridge. It's more densely populated than the stereotypical North American city and more densely populated than the suburban counties around it with the exception of Hudson County. For instance the population density of Essex county NJ, where Newark is, is 6,211 per square mile and Staten Island is 8,030. Even Essex county is denser than the stereotypical North American city. For instance Cleveland is 5,107 and Denver is 3,922.