December 28, 2004


Long Live the Free Republic of Gotham: Don't say it can't be done. But first, we need to get over our Abe Lincoln obsession and revisit the Constitution. (Christopher Ketcham, 12/27/04, NY Press)

For anyone watching history and thinking ahead in the wake of November 2, the secession of New York City from the United States of America is no longer a question of ambiguities but practicalities, not a question of why but how. Yet the city's pundits and politicos continue to agonize playfully over the former while avoiding the real issue, which is constitutional, because it brings a tingle to the genitals without requiring anyone getting dirty. What's more narcissistically sexy than being culturally better endowed than an entire nation, but also impotent before the mass?

We can dispense with the hypocrisy of the greedhead megalomaniac New Yorker who thinks himself more enlightened than the average American because he goes to the Met and shits in fancy porcelain to Architectural Digest instead of to TV Guide in the moldy pan of a ranch-house in Phoenix or Cleveland. No, the nationwide balance, growing larger every day, of greedhead megalomaniacs merely apes, in cheaper finery, New York's corporatism, faddism and materialism as formerly enshrined in two glass towers. Before they burned to the ground, the Twin Towers stood over the nation as the symbol of empire; then, as an Alamo stand against the savages. Their fall sent America to Afghanistan and then Iraq in defense of the city on the hill: New York as epitome of American civilization.

And we are. The reason is that we make lots of money, and we do it in blazing-hot pursuit of life, liberty and happiness; though, granted, our government tempers that enthusiasm more generously than elsewhere in the nation (budgeting for health, education, labor, the environment, education and public transit—sharing the wealth). Money—who's making it, who's taking it—has always been and always will be the only argument for American rebellion; it was the predicate for the original New World secession from the English empire in 1775. If taxation without representation was the complaint then, it remains the rub today. Mayor Bloomberg's office claims that New York City sends as much as $11.4 billion more to Congress than it receives in services. The current hacks in the White House opt—among many other indignities—to blow our prodigious revenue on the occupation of Iraq, which as of May 2004 had cost New Yorkers $2.1 billion. The darker burden, of mortal consequence, is the vast terrorist recruitment the war has spawned, with New York—dense, vital—still the most coveted target.

The city's match with the state government in Albany is equally rapine. The New York State legislature for the most part represents the ingrate pawing of upstate cretins while netting an estimated $3.5 billion more annually from hardworking city taxpayers than it returns in spending on city services and infrastructure. Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who in 2003 floated a secession proposal for the establishment of New York City as the 51st state, claims that independence from the Albany thieves—the first step in secession from the odious United States—would gain the soon-to-be Free Republic of Gotham a billion-dollar annual budget surplus, with vastly reduced business, property and personal income taxes.

Secession dreams always have a curious aspect to them--advocates blithely assume that just because the rest of us might consider ourselves well rid of such people that we'd let them keep our territory in the bargain. If they want out of the United States they can leave--we'll keep the island.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 28, 2004 5:38 PM

The stock markets would move to St Louis or Las Vegas, soon to be followed by the banks, and the rest of the financial sector.

Once that happens, NYC would basically be little more than Detroit without a bridge to Canada.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 6:06 PM

Nice try Chris. If memory serves, back in 1965 secession was a plank in William F. Buckley's tongue-in-cheek campaign for mayor of NYC (he happily lost to John Lindsay). Got any original ideas or do you rely exclusively on the Liberal Column Generator?

Posted by: Ed Bush at December 28, 2004 6:15 PM


I don't think that was a plank, but my memory is suspect:

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2004 6:27 PM

Just like the last civil war, people upset that they lost an election then decide they should secede. The entire point of democracy is that election results matter. I have nothing but contempt for these guys.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 28, 2004 6:34 PM

Actually, it was that rational and sober campaign team of Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin who campaigned in 1969 under the secession (from New York State) banner -- Mailer ran for mayor and Breslin as city council president promising to make New York City the 51st state.

In the end, New Yorkers rejected their radical ideas and re-elected John V. Lindsey, who successfully spent the final two months of the campaign convincing enough local residents he was not responsible for the failure to quickly clean up the big snowstorm in March of that year, but did play a critical role in the New York Mets' World Series victory over Baltimore in October (Democrat Mario Proccachino was the conservative candidate in the race that year, as hard as that may be to believe).

Posted by: John at December 28, 2004 6:41 PM

I thought it was funny that he lauds in one paragraph the ameloriation of rapant capitalism while bemoaning the tax burden in the next. It's NYC voters who keep the tax rate up, not the upstaters.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 28, 2004 6:44 PM

And the NYC reaction to 9/11 would have been ...

By the way, did anyone ever claim that "the Twin Towers stood over the nation as the symbol of empire", or have much nice to say about them at all, prior to 9/11?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 28, 2004 6:45 PM

Anyone who advocates this is guilty of treason. Maybe not a prosecutable treason, but a moral one nontheless.

And it thus exposes their lie that "dissent is patriotic", etc. Actually, dissent CAN be patriotic. But the fact that these "dissenters", having lost in the arena of ideas, merely shrug their shoulders and set about dismantling the country ("If *I* can't have it, no one can!") shows that "patriotism" is to them an untterly meaningless word, to be used when convenient, discarded like tissue, and marks the core of childishness that makes up their being.

Posted by: Andrew X at December 28, 2004 7:25 PM


All of us from the Tri-State area who grew up watching their rise ruin the skyline used to say terrible things about the.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2004 7:54 PM

Ahhh, New York. Mmm mmm. Living life squished among millions of others crowded onto a small little island. Paying exorbitant prices for even the most basic material goods. Relying on dirty trains and cabs to get around, and virtually smelling the stink of factories just by glancing across the river. Spending your entire life as a renter rather than a homeowner. Losing your self-identity and sense of worth because you're but a little speck among the hordes, with probably half a thousand people who sorta look like you just in the few blocks around your tiny cramped apartment. And, of course, listening to that damned accent day after day.

The arrogance of most New Yorkers never fails to astound. With a couple of little twists in the routes of a couple of ships a few centuries ago, it would have been Charleston that wound up serving as America's main point of entry. And it would have been Charleston that turned into the massively overcrowded metropolis brimming with unmerited arrogance. At least the Carolinas actually have winters that are designed for human habitation.

Posted by: SPilch at December 28, 2004 8:05 PM


I stand gratefully corrected. I was not sure about it and seemed to recall a team. Mailer/Breslin it was.

Ketchum still needs a bit of originality.



Posted by: Ed Bush at December 28, 2004 8:12 PM

NYC has the greatest natural harbor in the world.(Singapore is 2d) Since marine trade was the economic engine of the 17th thru the 19th centuries, NYC's ascendancy was inevitable. Also, the building of the Erie Canal which enabled goods to leave the West and float from the Great Lakes to NYC aided its ascendancy.

Charleston, pleasant weather if you like high heat and humidity, lacked NYC's natural advantages.

You might make an argument for New Orleans, which also has the virtue of great food and music.

What accent?

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 8:19 PM

Well, considering that Charleston was the second-busiest port in the 18th century colonies (maybe even No. 1 at some point?), I don't think it's too difficult -- and is certainly kinda fun -- to conjure an alternative history.

Remember that the Mayflower, for instance, was supposed to land down south.

You are right about the Erie Canal. Meanwhile, in a battle of the seasons, I'd take Charleston's hot summers over New York's frigid winters in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Semolina at December 28, 2004 8:28 PM


Before you give your contempt free reign, I suggest reading "The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan & the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America" by Russell Shorto. The Dutch built their outpost on trade, most any sort of trade. New Amsterdam, later New York, was not a city on a hill but a city on a street -- Wall Street. I can't speak for Charleston, but Manhattan's anything goes spirit (along with the Erie Canal), insured that Boston would eventually become the World-Class TOWN that it is today.



P.S. This Dutch judge is biased. I lived there for 17 years, most of them a short walk from the statue of Peter Stuyvesant.

Posted by: Ed Bush at December 28, 2004 8:34 PM

> By the way, did anyone ever claim that "the Twin Towers stood over the nation as the symbol of empire", or have much nice to say about them at all, prior to 9/11?

Having seen the Twin Towers in the King Kong remake at a very early age, and having visited the observation deck at age 17 (1987), I've always thought they were pretty cool. But I'll certainly concede that the exterior design didn't have a lot of personality above the lowest floors where the pointy arches came together. Then again, if you can identify the dullest man on earth, doesn't that alone make him very interesting?

Aesthetics aside, I'm pretty well convinced that the towers really were the symbol of modern-day NYC (and hence the "empire"). It's astonishing how many pre-9/11 movies, TV shows, video games, etc., felt obliged to incorporate them in some montage or another.

Oh, but the main reason I'm posting a response here is to point out that I think this guy wants to be New York's answer to Mark Morford. Keep an eye on him -- I see big, passionate, messy, sweaty, undulating things in his future.

Posted by: Guy T. at December 28, 2004 9:17 PM

A writer for whom Mark Morford is his idol. That's like a comedian modeling himself after Pauly Shore or Bobcat Goldthwait.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 9:21 PM

Don't forget Carrot-Top!

Posted by: Andrew X at December 28, 2004 9:37 PM

My father worked two blocks from the twin towers site as the old Washington Market and Hudson Terminal were being torn down in the late 1960s to make way for the complex, so I was able to see a lot of the process, inluding the carving out of the "bathtub" that left the tubes for the PATH subway going to New Jersey standing on 30-foot high stilts while the new lower-level station was built. However, while the construction was cool to watch, the final site itself was cold to visit for its first 20 or so years -- isolated by high walls from the rest of the neighborhood on 2 1/2 of its four sides, the areas where Tower 1 and Tower 2 stood were virtually devoid of pedestrian life until Battery Park City and the World Financial Center complex were built on the landfill to the west, created by digging out the bathtub.

The builings probably had a more favorable image for those who grew up never knowing anything but having the Twin Towers in view while looking down Fifth Avenue, but after they came down, I could almost see what Norman Mailer was getting at when he spoke of his dislike of the structures (had he left it to disparaging the architecture alone instead of trying to make them represent all of American capitalism, I could have even overlooked the fact that like many post-9/11 leftists, he waited until he was in Europe to make his comments).

Posted by: John at December 28, 2004 10:08 PM

What secessionists never bother to consider is that if secession is acceptable, then it's also possible for the rest of the country to "seceed" from New York City or California or whatever other urban paradise-on-earth they live in. Keep talking nasty about "Jesusland" and they may get their wish, good and hard. Do those places have what it takes to be another Hong Kong or Singapore?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 28, 2004 10:19 PM

I like the comment of a friend of mine, a NYC native , who said that the only reason that NYC became the metropolis it is now is that the New Yorkers were willing to do the bookkeeping for the Southern plantation owners and in so doing the city became the huge port it was. Without the bookkeepers the South would have dominated the nation. I think he has a point. The New Yorkers would have done anything for anyone for money. They still operate the same way.

Posted by: dick at December 29, 2004 12:23 AM

Every city has its hinterland. Every great city has a great hinterland. New York City started out with a great harbor and a river leading straight into the hinterland (the Hudson Valley). With the Erie Canal, NYC's hinterland became the whole of the Great Lakes. With rail and telegraph links, its hinterland became the whole Lower 48 States. Now its nearly the entire world.

Love it or hate it, NYC is the capital of the modern world, inheriting that title from London circa 1914. I think UBL chose to attack NYC because it is the world's financial and cultural capital. There are no challengers in sight... though with the political views currently prevalent in that city today, with the city's greatness now a source of guilt not pride, it seems NYC wants to abandon its primacy (and its main source of wealth).

Posted by: J Baustian at December 29, 2004 12:31 AM

My first roommate in colleage was a rabid Vermont seccessionist. Now there was a guy living in fantasyland.

Posted by: Governor Breck at December 29, 2004 7:30 AM

I dunno; I worked there for eight years and I'd kinda like to see them go. Decentralization might have some benefits.

Posted by: Genecis at December 29, 2004 11:08 AM

Why shouldn't Vermont just go? Why do we need them? Certainly not for the over-priced, over-subsidized, easily replaceable dairy products.

Posted by: Bart at December 30, 2004 6:39 AM