Government of New York City
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The government of New York City is organized under the City Charter and provides for a "strong" mayor-council system. The government of New York is more centralized than that of most other U.S. cities, with the city government being responsible for public education, correctional institutions, libraries, public safety, recreational facilities, sanitation, water supply, and welfare services.
The mayor is elected to a four-year term and is responsible for the administration of city government. The New York City Council is a unicameral body consisting of 51 members, each elected from a geographic district, normally for four-year terms. New York City government employes 325,000 persons, more than any city in the United States and more than all except three U.S. states: California, Texas, and New York.
New York City's political geography is unique. It is made up of five boroughs, each coterminous with one of five counties of New York State. Manhattan is New York County, Queens is Queens County, Brooklyn is Kings County, The Bronx is Bronx County and Staten Island is Richmond County. When New York City was consolidated into its present form in 1898, all previous local governments were abolished and replaced with the current unified, centralized city government. However, each county retains its own district attorney to prosecute crimes, and most of the court system is organized around the counties.
- 1 Executive branch
- 2 Legislative branch
- 3 Judicial branch
- 4 Community Boards
- 5 Other features
- 6 History
- 7 Official seal and flag
- 8 Federal representation
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The Executive branch of New York City consists of the Mayor, the Public Advocate, the Comptroller, and five Borough Presidents. The heads of about 50 city departments are appointed by the mayor. The mayor also appoints several Deputy Mayors to head major offices within the executive branch of the city government. Deputy Mayors report directly to the Mayor.
The Mayor is responsible for all city services, police and fire protection, enforcement of all city and state laws within the city, and administration of public property and most public agencies. The mayor is directly elected by popular vote for a four-year term, and formerly faced a two-term limit. Legislation from 2008 increased the limit to three terms. The office, and most others, are now once again limited to two terms.
The Public Advocate is a directly elected executive official and heads the Office of the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate's primary responsibility is to ease public relations with the government, investigate complaints regarding city agencies, mediate disputes between city agencies and citizens, serve as the city's ombudsman and advise the mayor on community relations. The Public Advocate is an ex officio member of all Council committees and is permitted to introduce legislation in the Council.
A holdover from what was City Council President, the position of Public Advocate has little real enforceable authority.
The Public Advocate stands first in line of succession to the mayoralty in the event of inability or incapacity of the mayor to continue in office, until a new election can be held.
The Public Advocate is Letitia James, a Democrat. She was elected in 2013, succeeding Bill de Blasio, who served from 2010 to 2013.
The Comptroller is the city's chief financial officer, elected directly by city voters. In addition to managing the city's $80 billion pension fund, the Comptroller advises the mayor and the City Council on all financial matters, fiscal policy and financial transactions. The Office of the Comptroller is empowered with limited investigational power over all city expenditures and finance, and is responsible for auditing the finances of all city agencies. The Comptroller is a trustee on four of the five New York City pension funds, and serves as investment advisor to all five, representing $80 billion of assets, meaning s/he is responsible for managing the assets of the pension funds. The Comptroller also has responsibility for issuing and marketing all city bonds.
The Comptroller stands second, after the Public Advocate, in the line to succeed a mayor who has become unable to serve.
The five boroughs are coterminous with their respective counties, but the counties do not have actual county governments. Each borough elects a Borough President by direct popular vote. Under the city charter, the Borough President's powers are limited. (The last significant power of the borough presidents—to appoint a member of the Board of Education—was abolished, along with the Board, on June 30, 2002). They generally serve as ceremonial leaders who advocate for their boroughs on key issues.
Borough presidents advise the Mayor on issues relating to each borough, comment on all land use items in their borough, advocate borough needs in the annual municipal budget process, administer a small discretionary budget for projects within each borough, appoint Community Boards, and chair the Borough Boards.
- The Department for the Aging (DFTA) provides support and information for older people (those over 60).
- The Department of Buildings (DOB) enforces building codes and zoning regulations, issues building permits, and inspects new and existing buildings.
- The Department of City Planning (DCP) sets the framework of city's physical and socioeconomic planning.
- The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) supports government recruitment, manages government facilities and provides supplies and equipment.
- The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) enforces consumer protection laws, licenses businesses, deals with consumer complaints, and participates in consumer education.
- The Department of Correction (DOC, NYCD) is responsible for New York City's inmates, housing the majority of them on Rikers Island.
- The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) supports New York City's cultural life, such as ensuring adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations.
- The Department of Design & Construction (DDC) builds many of the civic facilities in New York City, and as the city's primary capital construction project manager, provides new or renovated facilities such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, courthouses and senior centers.
- The Department of Education (DOE) manages the city's public school system and is governed by the New York City Board of Education.
- The Fire Department (FDNY) provides fire protection, technical rescue, primary response to biological, chemical and radioactive hazards, and emergency medical services.
- The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is responsible for public health along with issuing birth certificates, dog licenses, and conducting restaurant inspection and enforcement.
- The Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) is the mayoral agency responsible for developing and maintaining the city's stock of affordable housing.
- The Human Resources Administration (Department of Social Services; HRA/DSS) is the mayoral agency in charge of the majority of the city's social services programs.
- The Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) oversees the city's use of existing and emerging technologies in government operations, and its delivery of services to the public.
- The Department of Investigation (DOI) is a law enforcement agency that serves as an independent and nonpartisan watchdog for New York City government.
- The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) provides secure and non-secure pre-conviction detention facilities for youths aged between 7 and 16.
- The Law Department (Law) is responsible for most of the city's legal affairs.
- The Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks) is responsible for maintaining the city's parks system, preserving and maintaining the ecological diversity of the city's natural areas, and furnishing recreational opportunities for city's residents and visitors.
- The Police Department (NYPD) has primary responsibilities in law enforcement and investigation.
- The Department of Probation (DOP) provides supervision for adults and juveniles placed on probation by judges in the Supreme, Criminal, and Family courts.
- The Department of Records & Information Services (Records) organizes and stores records and information from the City Hall Library and Municipal Archives.
- The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for garbage collection, recycling collection, street cleaning, and snow removal.
- The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) makes it easier for businesses in New York City to start, operate, and grow by providing free services to business owners, strengthening neighborhoods and commercial districts, and linking employers to a skilled and qualified workforce.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the management of much of the city's transportation infrastructure.
- The Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) supports youth and their families through a range of youth and community development programs, and administers city, state and federal funds to community-based organizations.
Legislative power in the City of New York is vested in the New York City Council. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor, who may sign them into law. If the mayor vetoes a bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.
The Council is a unicameral body consisting of 51 Council members, whose districts are defined by geographic population boundaries that each contain approximately 157,000 people. Council members are elected every four years, except that after every census held in years divisible by twenty, districts are redrawn, requiring two consecutive two-year terms, the second of which is held in the redrawn districts.
The Speaker of the Council, selected by the 51 Council members, is often considered the second most powerful post in New York City's government after the Mayor. The Speaker is Democrat Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The Council has several committees with oversight of various functions of the city government. Each council member sits on at least three standing, select or subcommittees. The standing committees meet at least once per month. The Speaker of the Council, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader are all ex officio members of every committee.
New York's court system is very complex, and contains vestiges of long-forgotten jurisdictions. The court of basic, general jurisdiction is the state Supreme Court, which hears felonies and major misdemeanors, significant lawsuits, and governmental and elections matters, and is divided into judicial districts and exists independently of the City government. Supreme Court Judges are elected. New York City itself is responsible for civil, criminal, and family court systems. All have a presence in each borough and have city-wide jurisdiction.
The New York City Criminal Court is the beginning level trial court of criminal cases in the city. The court handles arraignments, misdemeanors, and minor felony cases. Criminal motions are also handled in this court, along with some jury trials. Major felony cases are referred to the New York State Supreme Court. Judges of the Criminal Court are appointed by the Mayor to 10-year terms.
The New York City Civil Court handles all small claims cases (up to $5,000) and all civil cases in the city with a monetary value up to $25,000, as well as residential and commercial landlord-tenant disputes. Judges of the Civil Court are elected to 10-year terms in either borough-wide or district elections.
The New York City Family Court hears matters involving children and families. Its jurisdiction includes custody and visitation, support, family offense (domestic violence), persons in need of supervision, delinquency, child protective proceedings (abuse and neglect), foster care approval and review, termination of parental rights, adoption and guardianship. Judges of the Family Court are appointed by the Mayor to 10-year terms.
Surrogate's Court handles probate and guardianship matters. It is a county court and also exists independently from the City. Surrogates are elected, two each from Manhattan and Brooklyn, one each from the other three boroughs.
The Midtown Community Court focuses on quality-of-life offenses, such as prostitution, shoplifting, farebeating and vandalism. The Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn combines family court, civil and housing court and minor criminal court functions and takes a community development approach to justice through such programs as the Youth Court where teenagers are trained and act as mediators to help their peers resolve disputes.
- See also Community Boards of the Bronx, Community Boards of Brooklyn, Community Boards of Manhattan, Community Boards of Queens, Community Boards of Staten Island
New York City is divided into 59 administrative districts, each served by a Community Board. Community Boards are local representative bodies that serve as advocates for New York City residents and communities. They do not have any administrative rights, but they may present requests, regarding community needs, to City Administration. There is no guarantee that the request will be approved by City, but in practice the bulk of reasonable problems have been resolved. Each Board has up to 50 voting members, with one half of the membership appointed each year for two-year terms; there are no term limits. Additionally, all city council members whose council districts cover part of a community district are non-voting, ex officio Board members. Borough Presidents appoint the voting Community Board members, with half of the appointees nominated by council members representing the district.
Laws and regulations
The New York Constitution empowers local governments, such as that of New York City, to adopt local laws. Counties, cities, and towns may also promulgate ordinances in addition to laws. A local law has a status equivalent with a law enacted by the Legislature (subject to certain exceptions and restrictions), and is superior to the older forms of municipal legislation such as ordinances, resolutions, rules and regulations. Each local government must designate a newspaper of notice to publish or describe its laws. The Secretary of State is responsible for publishing local laws as a supplement to the Laws of New York (containing the session laws of the state legislature), although they have not done so in recent years.
With respect to New York City, the codified local laws are contained in the New York City Administrative Code in 29 titles, the regulations promulgated by city agencies are compiled in the Rules of the City of New York in 71 titles, and The City Record is the official journal published each weekday (except legal holidays) containing legal notices produced by city agencies, including notices of proposed and adopted rules, procurement solicitations and awards, upcoming public hearings and meetings, public auctions and property dispositions, and selected court decisions. The New York City Charter, the New York City Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York are published online by New York Legal Publishing under contract with the New York City Law Department.
The New York City government's budget is the largest municipal budget in the United States. The city government spends about $61 billion a year, employs 250,000 people, spends $21 billion to educate more than 1.1 million children, levies $27 billion in taxes, and receives $14 billion from federal and state governments. New York State has more than 4,200 local governments in the form of counties, cities, towns, and villages. About 52% of all revenue raised by local governments in the state is raised solely by the government of New York City, which spends it on education (31%), social services (20%), public safety (13%), and benefits and pensions (10%). New York City property taxes are lower than those in the suburbs because most of the city's revenue comes from and the city's sales tax and income tax. New York city residents pay an income tax to the municipality, in addition to their New York state income taxes, based on brackets that range from 2.9% to 3.7% of state taxable income. The city income tax also features a number of fully refundable tax credits, including an Earned Income Credit.
The city has a strong imbalance of payments with the federal and state governments. New York City receives 83 cents in services for every $1 it sends to Washington in taxes (or annually sends $13.1 billion more to Washington than it receives back). The city also sends an additional $11.1 billion more each year to the state of New York than it receives back. The city's total tax burden is among the highest in the United States.
Term limits and campaign finance
There is a two-term limit on most elected officials.
New York has a municipal campaign finance system. The New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) gives public matching funds to qualifying candidates, who in exchange submit to strict contribution and spending limits and a full audit of their finances. Citywide candidates in the program are required to take part in debates. Corporate contributions are banned and political action committees must register with the city.
Since March 2003 New York City has operated a single 24-hour phone number for government information and non-emergency services. The number, 3-1-1, is toll-free from any phone in the city. The services provided by 3-1-1 have gradually expanded since its start, including information on hundreds of City services, agencies, and events. New Yorkers call 3-1-1 for recycling schedules, complaints about garbage pick-up, street parking rules, noise complaints, landlord disputes and information about health insurance, information relating to recreation centers, public pools, golf courses and other facilities, or to schedule inspections by the Department of Buildings. 3-1-1 is also used by city agencies to direct resources and improve management. Outside of New York City, 3-1-1 can be accessed by calling (212) NEW-YORK (212-639-9675). For Windows Phone 7 there is also an App to access the 311 information services.
Between 2003 and 2006 3-1-1 received more than 30 million calls. Services are provided in over 170 languages, and calls are taken at a call center in Manhattan. On December 20, 2005, the first day of the 2005 New York City transit strike, 3-1-1 received over 240,000 phone calls, setting a new daily record for the city.
The proactive Street Conditions Observation Unit, or "Scout", was announced on August 16, 2007. The fifteen inspectors were drawn from five city agencies: environmental protection, transportation, sanitation, buildings, and housing preservation and development. They will roam the streets in three-wheel vehicles, reporting problems such as potholes and graffiti.
The Democratic Party holds the majority of public offices. Sixty-eight percent of registered voters in the city are Democrats. There are pockets of Republican strength in Staten Island, and wealthier sections of Brooklyn and Queens.
New York City has not been won by a Republican in a Presidential or statewide election since 1944, when former NY governor and prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This is in contrast to New York state as a whole, which is somewhat less liberal (though it has trended Democratic in most recent elections). In 2014, Democrats had a supermajority in the New York State Assembly by virtue of holding all but two city-based districts.
Historically, the city's Republican officeholders have been considerably to the left of their national counterparts (with the significant exception of Staten Island). Labor and education politics are important. Housing and economic development are the most controversial topics, with an ongoing debate over the proposed Barclays Center. An ability to deal with the state government is also crucial, especially on matters of education funding.
The Working Families Party, affiliated with the labor movement and progressive community activists, is a force in city politics. Party platforms are centered on affordable housing, education and economic development.
New York City is split between 12 of the state's 25 congressional districts, all but one held by Democrats. The Democrats have been particularly dominant in the city's federal politics since the 1990s; even before then, Republicans only had a realistic chance at winning three of the city's districts. With former city councilman Michael McMahon's victory in the Staten Island-based 13th District (now the 11th District)—historically the most conservative district in the city—the Democrats took all of the city's congressional seats for the first time in 76 years. The status would be short lived as Republican Michael Grimm would defeat McMahon 2 years later. Due almost entirely to the Democrats' near-total dominance at the local level, the Democrats have held a majority of the state's congressional seats since the late 1950s.
The Flushing Remonstrance signed by colonists in 1657 is considered a precursor to the United States Constitution's provision on freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights. The signers protested the Dutch colonial authorities' persecution of Quakers in what is today the borough of Queens.
New York City politicians often exert influence outside the city in response to the city's diverse ethnic constituencies. For example, in 1984 the New York City Comptroller’s Office under the direction of then Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin developed with Irish Nobel Peace laureate Sean MacBride the MacBride Principles, which call on companies operating in Northern Ireland to increase employment opportunities for members of underrepresented religious groups, ban the display of provocative sectarian emblems in the workplace, promote security for minority employees and abolish hiring criteria that discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity. A 2006 report by the New York City Comptroller's Office found that 88 US and Canadian corporations operating in Northern Ireland had agreed to independent monitoring of their compliance with the MacBride Principles.
Candidates running for parliament in countries like the Dominican Republic visit the large expatriate communities from their countries living in New York City to solicit donations and absentee votes. New York City mayors, in turn, visit these countries to build closer political and economic ties between the city and governments abroad.
Four of the top five zip codes in the United States for political contributions are in Manhattan. The top zip code, 10021 on the Upper East Side, generated the most money for the 2004 presidential campaigns of both George W. Bush and John Kerry.
In 2008 New York City and London announced the Innovation Exchange Programme, in which the two cities will share best practices in government innovation. The program involves not only the formal exchange of ideas but also transfer of personnel between the cities. It will focus on transparency and accountability, efficiency, transport, policy, education and skills and environmental policy.
In the 1820s, New York State removed all property qualifications for the right to vote for whites but retained them for blacks. In 1846 voters in New York State rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee blacks the same voting rights as whites. In 1870, however, five years after the Civil War, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving blacks throughout the United States the same voting rights as whites.
New York City introduced a uniform ballot listing all candidates in 1880. To get on it, an office seeker would have to be nominated by a political party or submit nominating petitions, laying the groundwork for a system that persists to this day. In 1894 bipartisan control of elections was introduced, establishing a system in effect to this day. All election positions, from Board of Elections commissioners to election inspectors, must be divided equally between the two major parties.
A 1915 referendum giving women the vote was defeated by city and state voters, but in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed into law, guaranteeing women throughout the United States the right to vote.
In 1967, a suit brought under the Voting Rights Act passed by the U.S. Congress two years earlier led to the creation of the majority black 12th Congressional District in Brooklyn. Previously, black voters had been divided among several predominantly white districts. Under the Act, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx are subject to preclearance by the Department of Justice before implementing any changes affecting voting. In 1968, voters in the district elected Shirley Chisholm as the first black woman ever in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, congressional, state legislative and City Council districts have been drawn so as to ensure minority representation.
Non-citizens who have children in public schools were given the right to vote in elections for members of community school boards in 1969 (those boards no longer exist). Starting in 1975 election information was provided in Spanish as well as English, and in 1992 the City introduced ballots in Chinese.
As of May, 2013, a new bill has begun working its way through the NYC political system to allow non citizens living in the five boroughs the right to vote in local elections. It has enough projected votes in the NYC City Council to overrule an expected Mayoral veto. It's unclear whether this new law (if passed) will actually be valid. 
Justice Jane Bolin became the first black female judge in the United States when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia swore her in to the bench of the Family Court, then called the Domestic Relations Court, in 1939.
A two-term limit was imposed on most elected officials, including the Mayor and City Council, but excluding the Districts Attorney, after a 1993 referendum. In 1996, voters turned down a City Council proposal to extend term limits. The movement to introduce term limits was led by Ronald Lauder, a cosmetics heir, who spent $4 million on the two referendums.
The Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn opened in 2000 as the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court. It was built to alleviate the chronic lack of access to justice services in the isolated Red Hook area.
These limits were reinstated as part of a NYC Charter update voted in by the electorate.
Official seal and flag
The seal of the City of New York, adopted in an earlier form in 1686, bears the legend SIGILLVM CIVITATIS NOVI EBORACI, which means simply "The Seal of the City of New York." Eboracum was the Roman name for York, the titular seat of James II as Duke of York. The two supporters represent the unity between Native American and colonist, the four windmill sails recall the city's Dutch history as New Amsterdam, and the beavers and flour barrels the city's earliest trade goods (see History of New York City). The crest over the seal is the American eagle added after the American Revolution. "1625," at the bottom, is the date of the founding of the city.
The flag of New York City was adopted in 1915. Its blue, white, and orange bands represent the colors of the Dutch flag that flew over the city, then New Amsterdam, between the 1620s and 1660s. Located in the center is a blue print of the official Seal of New York City.
The Mayor's Office has its own official flag as well, which is the same design with an added five-pointed star (representing each of the five boroughs) in blue.
The United States Post Office operates post offices in New York City. The James A. Farley Post Office in Midtown Manhattan is the city's main post office. The post office stopped 24 hour service beginning on May 9, 2009 due to decreasing mail traffic. Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island each have central and/or main post offices. Queens has three, each serving one of the former townships of Queens County.
New York's military installations include the United States Army post of Fort Hamilton located in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn under the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The bridge spans the Narrows and connects to Staten Island, where Coast Guard base Fort Wadsworth lies under the bridge's shadow. Fort Totten is another military installation located in Queens near the Throggs Neck Bridge.
New York City-related articles:
- List of New York City Borough Halls and municipal buildings
- Tammany Hall
- Government and politics of the Bronx
- Government and politics in Brooklyn
- Government of Staten Island
- City of Greater New York
- History of New York City
- History of Brooklyn
- New York City mayoral elections
- New York Police Department
- New York City Fire Department
- New York City Department of Correction
- New York City Department of Homeless Services
New York State-related articles:
- Government of New York
- New York State public benefit corporations
- Elections in New York
- Politics of New York
- American Labor Party
- Conservative Party of New York
- Independence Party of New York
- Liberal Party of New York
- New York State Right to Life Party
- Working Families Party
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- Fernanda Santos: The Future of Term Limits Is in Court, The New York Times, New York edition, October 24, 2008, page A24 (retrieved on October 24, 2008), Judge Rejects Suit Over Term Limits, The New York Times, New York edition, January 14, 2009, page A26, and Appeals Court Upholds Term Limits Revision, The New York Times City Room Blog, April 28, 2009 (both retrieved on July 6, 2009). The original January decision by Judge Charles Sifton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) was upheld by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Vermont, Connecticut and New York state).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Government of New York City.|
- New York City government
- New York City Charter, the New York City Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York from New York Legal Publishing
- Checkbook NYC 2.0 from the New York City Comptroller
- NYC Open Data from the New York City DoITT and Socrata
- City of New York on GitHub