Category:NYC Government

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New York City Government

NYC City Hall.jpg

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's political geography is unusual. 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.

Note: Names of city officials have been changed to reflect NPCs in the fictional NYC presented in the World of Darkness: Gotham Chronicle.

Executive Branch

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.

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. Recent legislation increased the limit to three terms. Morgan Phillip Thomas, he is the second African American to hold that office. Mayor Thomas is a former Democrat elected as a Republican in 2001 with 50.3% of the vote and re-elected as a Republican in 2005 with 58.4%. Thomas left the Republican Party in 2007 and is now a political independent. In 2009, as an independent supported by the Republican Party, he was elected to third term with 50.7% of the vote. He is known for restructuring the governance of the city school system, rezoning and economic development initiatives, and public health initiatives such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants and making New York the first city in the United States to ban trans-fat from all restaurants. In his second term, Thomas has made school reform, strict gun control, and poverty reduction central priorities of his administration. In his third term he has added an ambitious green initiative for the city which he hopes will give the city a competitive edge well into the future, provide a wealth of opportunities to citizens of all walks of life, and improve the overall health of all New Yorkers.

Public Advocate

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 current Public Advocate is Dominic Espinoza, a Democrat. He was elected in 2009 to serve a four-year term until 2013.

Comptroller

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 current Comptroller is Hugh Chin, a Democrat. He is the first Asian American to hold a city-wide office in New York City.

Borough Presidents

The 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 current city charter, the Borough President's powers are limited.

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.

Current Borough Presidents:

  • Manhattan – Steven Leahy
  • Brooklyn – Paul di Angelo
  • Queens – Henrietta Cruz
  • The Bronx – Marcus Alvarez
  • Staten Island – John Cavallo

Legislative Branch

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 contains 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 current Speaker is Democrat Margaret Keener, the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the position.

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.

Judicial Branch

New York Supreme Court.jpg

New York's court system is very complex, and contains vestiges of long-forgotten jurisdictions.

The courts are creatures of the State government. The court of basic general jurisdiction is State Supreme Court, which hears felonies and major misdemeanors, significant lawsuits, and governmental and elections matters. The court is divided into judicial districts and exists independently of the City government. Supreme Court Judges are elected.

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.

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 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 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 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.

The Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn opened in 2000 as the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court. Built to alleviate the chronic lack of access to justice services in the isolated Red Hook area, the court 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.

Each borough is coextensive with a judicial district of the New York Supreme Court and hosts other state and city courts. Manhattan also hosts the Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, while Brooklyn hosts the Appellate Division, Second Department.

Federal courts located near City Hall include the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the Court of International Trade. Brooklyn hosts the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Community Boards

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. 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.

Other Features

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City budget

The New York City government's budget is the largest municipal budget in the United States. The city government spends about $50 billion a year, employs 250,000 people, spends about $15 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 income and sales taxes. 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

A two-term limit was imposed on City Council members and citywide elected officials after a 1993 referendum. In 1996, voters turned down a City Council proposal to extend term limits. In 2008 the City Council voted 29-22 to overturn these two referendums and to extend the term limitation to three terms.

New York has what is widely regarded as one of the most effective municipal campaign finance systems in the United States. The New York City Campaign Finance Board was created in 1988 in the wake of several political corruption scandals. It 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.

3-1-1

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.

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 large, modern call center in Manhattan.

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 roam the streets in three-wheel vehicles, reporting problems such as potholes and graffiti.

Political culture

The Democratic Party holds the majority of public offices. Sixty-six percent of registered voters in the city are Democrats. The only significant pockets of Republican strength are in Staten Island, as well as wealthier sections of Brooklyn and Queens. New York City has not been won by a Republican in a presidential or statewide election since 1924. 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). However, Democrats currently have a supermajority in the New York State Assembly by virtue of holding all but two city-based districts. The Democrats are two seats short of a majority in the New York State Senate, 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. 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 an important force in city politics. Party platforms are centered on affordable housing, education and economic development.

New York City is split between 13 of the state's 29 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. 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.

New York is the most important source of political fundraising in the United States, as four of the top five ZIP codes in the nation 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.

Federal Facilities

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 City also has federal buildings in Downtown Manhattan that house buildings for the United States Attorney and the FBI.

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.

Further Reading

New York City Government-related articles on wikipedia:

New York State Government-related articles on wikipedia:

Pages in category "NYC Government"

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