Two bills have come before the state Assembly and Senate that would separate it into three autonomous regions. Divide NYS is a movement around since 2012 that's looking to have New York be run in three regions: the New Amsterdam Region, New York Region, and the Montauk Region. The Montauk Region would consists of Long Island, Westchester and Rockland Counties. Next would be the five boroughs of New York City. The remainder of the state would be the New Amsterdam Region.
John Bergener, Jr., chair of Divide NYS, said a lot of research went into the plan and he found the concept of dividing the state goes back 150 years. Developing autonomous regions wouldn’t require Congressional approval.
“Each region would have its own regional governor,” Bergener said. “The state legislators would serve as both the regional legislators, for their region, and the state legislature for six weeks per year because you have to have one under the state constitution. You have to have a state legislature. All of the power, 99 percent of the power, would be stripped off the state legislature and be given to the regional legislatures. The same is true of the governor’s office. We have to have on under the U.S. Constitution but we do not have to grant him any power. All the powers would be transferred to the regional governors.”
He said the governor would be more of a token figure in state politics.
Bergener’s organization has conducted a great deal of work on this model. Since there would be plenty of people effected by this, there would be some issues with putting this into effect. One thing that Bergener is worried about is whether or not the vote will be binding, similar to the overwhelming majority vote of Staten Island seceding from New York City in 1993. The vote was ignored by the state Assembly, despite 65 percent of the voters voting in favor of it.
“The original reason was economics,” said Bergener. “Upstate has been dying since the 1960s because what they decided is the most state regulations should apply statewide. What works in a densely populated areas, doesn’t work in a not densely populated area. Over time, business have been leaving New York state. You only have to cross to the state lines in Pennsylvania to tell the difference.”
He added that laws on guns and bail would be regional laws, with each region establishing laws of their own. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, he is sure the two bills won’t be passed until after the November 2020 election.
Bergener said some of the past challenges the movement has faced was the vote in 2017 to hold a constitutional convention. This would have allowed them to bypass the legislature in terms of passing these laws. Now they’d have to wait until 2037 to take that route.
State Sen. Robert Ortt introduced the bill into the state Senate in 2019. He was unable to be reached for comment. There are currently nine members of the Assembly and five members of the state Senate sponsoring these bills.