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The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local government services in the state of New Yorkmarker. The state has four multi-purpose municipal corporations that provide most local government services, namely: counties, cities, towns, and villages. (Villages are a third layer of government, which are usually overlaid inside a town, and co-administer with the town, county, and state.) New York also has various corporate entities that serve single purposes that are also local governments, such as school and fire districts. Whether a municipality is defined as a city, town, or village is not dependent on population or land area, but rather by the form of government selected by the residents and approved by the state legislature. Each such government is granted varying home rule powers as provided by the New York Constitution.

New York has 62 counties, which are subdivided into 932 towns, 62 cities, and 9 Indian reservations. In total, the state has over 4200 local governments.

Home rule

Incorporated municipal governments (also known as "general purpose units of local government"; i.e., counties, cities, towns and villages) in New York State have been granted broad home rule powers enabling them to provide services to their residents and to regulate the quality of life within their jurisdictions. They do so while adhering to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of New York. Articles IX (titled "Local Government", but commonly referred to as the "Home Rule" article) and VIII (titled "Local Finances") of the State Constitution establish the rights and responsibilities of the municipal governments.

The New York State Constitution provides for democratically elected legislative bodies for counties, cities, towns and villages. These legislative bodies are granted the power to enact local laws as needed in order to provide services to their citizens and fulfill their various obligations.

County

The county is the primary administrative division of New York. There are sixty-two counties in the state. Five of the counties are boroughs of the city of New Yorkmarker and do not have functioning county governments. While originally created as subdivisions of the state meant to carry out state functions, counties are now considered municipal corporations with the power and fiscal capacity to provide an array of local government services. Such services generally include law enforcement and public safety, social and health services (such as Medicaid), and education (special needs and community colleges).

Every county has a county seat, which is the location of county government. One county, Senecamarker, has two county seats, namely the villages of Waterloomarker and Ovidmarker.

According to the State of New York Local Government Handbook, "The county is now a municipal corporation with geographical jurisdiction, homerule powers and fiscal capacity to provide a wide range of services to its residents. To some extent, counties have evolved into a form of 'regional' government that performs specified functions and which encompasses, but does not necessarily supersede, the jurisdiction of the cities, towns and villages within its borders."

Twenty-seven counties of the State operate under the general provisions of the County Law. Twenty counties have County Charters. Although all counties have a certain latitude to govern themselves, "charter counties" are afforded greater home rule powers. The charter counties as of 2006 are Albany,Broomemarker, Chautauquamarker, Chemungmarker, Dutchessmarker, Eriemarker, Herkimermarker, Monroemarker, Nassaumarker, Oneidamarker, Onondagamarker, Orangemarker, Putnammarker, Rensselaer, Rocklandmarker, Schenectadymarker, Suffolkmarker, Sullivanmarker,Tompkinsmarker, and Westchestermarker.

In some counties, the legislature is the Board of Supervisors, composed of town and city supervisors of its constituent towns and cities. In most of these counties, each supervisor's vote is weighted in accordance with the town's population in order to abide by the principle of "one person, one vote". Other counties have legislative districts of equal population which may cross municipal borders, these counties also have an elected County Executive. Some counties do not use the term "Board of Supervisors", but instead call their legislative body "Board of Representatives", "Board of Legislators," or "County Legislature".

In non-charter counties, the legislative body exercises executive power as well. Although the legislature can delegate certain functions and duties to a county administrator, who acts on behalf of the legislature, the legislature must maintain ultimate control over the actions of the administrator. Many, but not all, charter counties have an elected executive who is independent of the legislature; the exact form of government is defined in the County Charter.

See also: List of New York counties

City

In New York, each city is a highly autonomous incorporated area that, with the exceptions of the city of New York and Genevamarker, is contained within one county. Cities in New York are classified by the Census Bureau as incorporated places. They provide almost all services to its residents and has the highest degree of home rule and taxing jurisdiction over its residents. The main difference between a city and a village is that cities are organized and governed according to their charters, which can differ widely among cities, while most villages are subject to a uniform statewide Village Law (twelve villages still operate under charters issued by the state legislature prior to a revision of the State Constitution in 1874 that forbade chartering villages). Also, villages are part of a town (or towns; some villages cross town borders), with residents who pay taxes to and receive services from the town. Cities are neither part of nor subordinate to towns except for the city of Sherrillmarker, which for some purposes is treated as if it were a village of the town of Vernon. Some cities are completely surrounded by a town, typically of the same name.

There are sixty-two cities in the state. As of 2000, 54.1% of state residents were living in a city; 42.2% were living in New York City; 11.9% were living in one of the other 61 cities. In 1686, the English colonial governor granted the cities of New York and Albanymarker city charters, which were recognized by the first State Constitution in 1777. All other cities have been established by act of the state legislature and have been granted a charter. Cities have been granted the power to revise their charters or adopt new ones. There are no minimum population or area requirements in order to become a city. While there is no defined process for how and when a village becomes a city, the Legislature requires clear evidence, usually in the form of a locally drafted charter, that the community in question seeks to incorporate as a city.

The forms of government cities can have are council-manager, strong mayor-council, weak mayor-council or commission. Forty-six cities, the majority, use the mayor-council form.
  • Strong mayor-council — An elective mayor serves as the chief executive and administrative head of the city. A city council serves as a legislature. The mayor has veto power over council decisions, prepares a budget, and appoints and removes agency heads. This form sometimes includes a professional administrator appointed by the mayor.
  • Weak mayor-council — The mayor is a ceremonial figure. The city council serves as both a legislature and executive committee. There is generally no mayoral veto.
  • Council-manager — The mayor, if such a position exists, is ceremonial only. A professional administrator, appointed by the city council, serves as the administrative head. While empowered to appoint and remove agency heads and responsible for preparing a budget, the administrator does not have veto power. The city council serves as the legislature.
  • Commission — Elected commissioners administer individual city departments and together act as a legislature. This form sometimes includes an administrator. There is no mayor, although commissioners sometimes assume mayoral ceremonial duties.


The city of New York is a special case. The state legislature reorganized government in the area in the 1890s in an effort to consolidate. Other cities, villages, and towns were annex to become the "City of Greater New York", (an unofficial term, the new city retained the name of New York), a process basically completed in 1898. At the time of consolidation, Queens Countymarker was split. Its western towns joined the city, leaving three towns that were never part of the consolidation plan as part of Queens County but not part of the new Borough of Queens. (A small portion of the Town of Hempstead was itself annexed, also.) The next year (1899), the three eastern towns of Queens County separated to become Nassau Countymarker. The city today consists of the entire area of five counties (named New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx, and Richmond). While these counties have no county government, boroughs — with boundaries coterminus with the county boundaries — each have a Borough Board made up of the Borough President, the borough's district council members, and the chairpersons of the borough's community boards. A mayor serves as the city's chief executive officer.

Some places containing the word "city" in their name are not cities. Examples include Johnson Citymarker, Garden Citymarker, and New Citymarker.

See also: List of cities in New York

Town

Map of New York State, showing population density (click for larger version)
In New York, a town is the major division of each county. Towns in New York are classified by the Census Bureau as minor civil divisions. All residents of New York who do not live in a city or on an Indian reservation live in a town. Towns provide or arrange for the primary functions of local government. While some provide most municipal services for all town residents and selected services for residents of villages, some provide little more than road maintenance. There are 932 towns in New York. As of 2000, 45.8% of state residents were living in a town; 35.9% were living in a town but outside of a village. Unlike villages, towns cannot cross county borders, since they are part of each county.

In most towns, the town board exercises all executive and legislative functions. However, towns may adopt local laws that allow them to provide for a separate executive branch, an action authorized by the New York State Legislature. Such power is typically vested in a town manager or chief executive officer. The town supervisor is part of the legislative branch and presides over the board, voting on all matters but not possessing veto or tie-breaking power. The judicial branch is known as Town Court or Justice Court, part of New York's Justice Court system.

A town can contain zero, one, or multiple villages. Five towns are coterminous with their single village: Green Islandmarker in Albany County; East Rochestermarker in Monroe Countymarker; and Scarsdalemarker, Harrisonmarker and Mount Kiscomarker in Westchester Countymarker. When such an entity is formed, officials from either unit of government may serve in both village and town governments simulaneously. A referendum is held to decide whether residents prefer a village-style or town-style government, which will then function primarily as a village or town but will perform some of the functions of the other form.

Towns can contain several hamlets and communities. Often if the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a post office in a hamlet it will use the name of that hamlet, as will the local fire department or elementary school, other businesses may also use the name of a hamlet as part of their name. The United States Census Bureau will, with consideration from the town, designate a Census Designated Place (CDP) that may use the name of one or more hamlets, though boundaries may differ from what is used by the ZIP code, local fire department, etc.

Towns vary in size and population. The largest town (by area), Brookhavenmarker, covers 531.5 square miles (1,376.6 km²) (more than half of that is water — the town of Webbmarker has the most land area at 451 square miles (1,167 km²)). The smallest, the town of Green Islandmarker, covers 0.7 of a square mile (1.8 km²). The town of Hempsteadmarker has about 756,000 people (2000 census), making it more populous than any city in the state except New York Citymarker. Red Housemarker, the least populous, has 38 permanent residents (2000 census).

Many places containing the word "town" in their name are not towns. Examples include Cooperstownmarker of Baseball Hall of Famemarker, Jamestown, New Yorkmarker, and Levittownmarker.

See also: List of towns in New York

Census-designated place

A census-designated place (CDP) is defined by the United States Census Bureau as "a statistical entity defined for each decennial census according to Census Bureau guidelines, comprising a densely settled concentration of population..." that is not part of a city or a village "...but is locally identified by a name." CDPs may cross town and county borders. CDPs are defined collaboratively by state and local officials and the Census Bureau. Since they are defined for each census, there is no necessity that either their number or boundaries remain constant.

The Census Bureau formerly referred to CDPs as "unincorporated places" from 1950 through the 1970 decennialcensuses. The term CDP was first used for the 1980 census, and minimum population criteria for CDPs were dropped with the 2000 Census.

See also: List of census-designated places in New York

Hamlet

Though the term "hamlet" is not defined under New York law, many people in the state use the term hamlet to refer to a community within a town that is not incorporated as a village. Because a hamlet has no government of its own, it depends upon the town that contains it for municipal services and government. Hamlets often have names corresponding to the names of a local school district, post office, or fire district - though the boundaries are often not identical. Many hamlets (and CDPs) are served, at least in part, by post offices and school districts with the names of adjacent hamlets, villages, towns, or cities. Though hamlets do not have official boundaries, the New York State Department of Transportationmarker (NYSDOT) does put hamlet names on rectangular green signs with white lettering at locations of its choosing. The NYSDOT also provides community identification signs on some scenic byways to be placed at the boundaries of hamlets, as decided by the byway. Many towns have special zoning or planning districts and planning strategies for their hamlets, and many place welcome signs at the gateways to the hamlets.

Some hamlets are former villages that have dissolved their incorporation (Old Forgemarker in Herkimer Countymarker, Rosendalemarker in Ulster Countymarker, and Andesmarker in Delaware Countymarker, for example).

The New York State Gazetteer, published by the New York State Department of Health in 1995, includes a list of hamlets in the state. The criteria used for inclusion in the Gazetteer are not stated.

The Adirondack Park Agency also uses the term "hamlet", though as a land use classification for private land under its Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan (APLUDP). The APLUDP extends the boundaries for its classification of hamlets "well beyond established settlements" to allow for growth.

Village

In New York, a village is an incorporated area, often one which is within a single town. Villages in New York State are classified by the Census Bureau as incorporated places. Like all municipal corporations, villages have clearly defined legal boundaries. A village is a municipality that provides the services closest to the residents, which may or may not include garbage collection, management of cemeteries, street and highway maintenance, street lighting, and building codes. Some villages provide their own police and other optional services. Villages have less autonomy than cities. Those municipal services not provided by the village are provided by the town or towns containing the village. As of the 2000 census, 9.9% of the state's population was living in one of the 553 villages in New York.

The legislature of a village is the board of trustees, composed of a mayor and (usually) four trustees. The board is responsible for approving mayoral appointments, managing village finances and property, and approving a budget. The mayor, who is generally the chief executive of the village, may vote in all business before the board and must vote to break a tie. The mayor generally does not possess veto power, unless this is provided for by local law. Administrative duties of the mayor include enforcing laws and supervising employees. A village may also have a full-time village manager, who performs these administrative duties instead of the mayor. In 2007, sixty-seven villages had such a manager. Some villages have their own village justice, while others utilize the justice of the town or towns they are located in.

While most villages are subject to a uniform statewide Village Law, twelve villages operate under charters issued by the state legislature prior to 1874. Before a revision to the State Constitution in that year, villages were formed by the state legislature through granting of charters. Many villages reincorporated, dumping their charters in favor of the Village Law. The villages that retain their charters are Alexandermarker, Carthagemarker, Catskillmarker, Cooperstownmarker, Depositmarker, Fredoniamarker, Ilionmarker, Mohawkmarker, Ossiningmarker, Owegomarker, Port Chestermarker, and Waterfordmarker. These villages must still comply with those aspects of Village Law that are not inconsistent with their charters.

To be incorporated, the area of the proposed village must have at least 500 inhabitants and not be part of an existing city or village. Additionally, the proposed village can be no more than 5 square miles (13 km²) in area unless its boundaries are to be coterminous with a school, fire, improvement or other district, or the entire town. The process of incorporation begins with a petition by either 20% of residents or owners of 50% of assessed real property. If deemed legally sufficient, incorporation is then voted upon by the qualified voters living in the proposed village only. Some villages have less than 500 residents, having incorporated before the present population requirement of 500. For example, the village of West Hampton Dunesmarker, formed in 1993, has a 2000 Census population of only 11.

A village may also be dissolved, returning all government control to the town level. The process of dissolution can be initiated by the village board itself, or upon the submission of a proper petition to the board. The village board must produce a "dissolution plan" that settles specific matters, such as the village's debts, its employees and property, and the financial impact dissolution would have on village and non-village town residents. This plan is voted upon by village voters only.

A relatively small number of villages cross other municipal boundaries. More than 70 villages are located in two or more towns. Seven villages are in two counties. The village of Saranac Lakemarker is in three towns and two counties.

Some places containing "Village" or the suffix "-ville" in their name are not villages. Examples include Greenwich Villagemarker and Smithvillemarker.

See also: List of villages in New York

Divisions unique to New York City

Borough

The five boroughs: 1.Manhattan, 2.Brooklyn, 3.Queens, 4.The Bronx, 5.Staten Island
A Borough is a division of the city of New Yorkmarker and not the state, or of any other city in the state. Each of the five boroughs of the city is coextensive with one of its five counties. Under the General Municipal Law of the State of New York, a borough results when the towns, villages and cities in a county merge with the county itself.

The boroughs were originally intended to retain some local governance in the consolidated city that was formed in 1898. Each borough individually elects a borough president. The borough presidents once wielded considerable power as members of the New York City Board of Estimate, but the position is now largely ceremonial and advisory. Likewise, the boroughs and their residents have little distinct power within the city. "The five boroughs of the City of New York function as counties for certain purposes, although they are not organized as such nor do they operate as county governments."

The most distinctive feature of a typical county retained by New York boroughs is the popular election of a separate district attorney for each borough. Each of the five New York City district attorneys prosecutes crimes in the name of the county rather than the name of the borough (for example, the district attorney for the borough of Brooklyn is called the Kings County District Attorney).

Community board

Community boards are what the New York City government Web site refers to as "local representative bodies." The community boards, however, are unelected. Each board consists of fifty unpaid members appointed by the borough president. Half of the members are nominated by the City Council members who represent the area. The power of the community boards is very limited. They serve in an advisory capacity regarding land use and zoning, budget and various concerns of the community. The boards can recommend action on the part of the city government, but they cannot enforce it. There are fifty-nine community boards, identified by borough name and a number (e.g. Manhattan Community Board 3).

Special purpose units of government

In New York, special purpose units of government provide specialized services only to those who live in the district, and are empowered to tax residents of the district for the services provided in common. Special districts often cross the lines of towns, villages, and hamlets, and occasionally cities or counties.

School district

See also: List of school districts in New York

School districts are the most common kind of special district in New York. They provide, arrange, or contract for all public education services, including special education and school transportation, the latter also for non-public schools.

School districts are rarely precisely coextensive with the cities, towns, villages, or hamlets that bear the same name, meaning that a person living in one hamlet or village might send their children to a school associated with a different hamlet or village. Residents pay school taxes to the same school district in which they live and their children attend school. All tax-paying residents are eligible for the STAR Program tax rebate which in effect lessens the value of an individual's primary residence to lessen the tax burden on the residence.

All but five school districts are separate from municipal governments. The exceptions are the five cities whose populations exceed 125,000 (Buffalo, New York, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers), in which education is part of the municipal budget.

Schools in the city of New York are controlled by the New York City Department of Education, and the city is divided by the department into 11 "school regions" (10 geographic regions and a "District 75" for students with disabilities)

There are five types of school districts in the state, each with slightly different laws.

Common school district

Common school districts, established in 1812, were the first type of school district in the state. In July 2004, there were only 11 such districts remaining. They are not authorized to provide secondary education. They must, therefore, contract with neighboring school districts to provide high school education for pupils in the district. Typically one trustee or a three person board of trustees will govern the district.

Union free school district

In 1853, the Legislature established union free school districts, which are districts resulting from a "union" of two or more common school districts, "free" from the restrictions that previously barred them from operating high schools. In July 2004, there were 163 school districts of this type. Despite being able to operate high schools, thirty-one of these districts provided only elementary education. Those districts that are not components of central school districts provide secondary education by contracting with other districts. Each union free school district is governed by a three- to nine-member board of education.

Central school district

Not to be confused with central high school districts, central school districts are the most prevalent type of school district in New York. In July 2004, there were 460 such districts. They began as a result of legislation in 1914. Central school districts may form from any number (including one) of common, union free, and/or central school districts. Central school districts are permitted to provide secondary education. Its board of education must consist of five, seven, or nine members and length of service must be three, four, or five years, each decided upon by the voters in the district.

Central high school district

There are only three central high school districts in New York state, all in Nassau Countymarker (Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, Sewanhaka Central High School District, and Valley Stream Central High School District). Central high school districts provide secondary education to students in two or more common or union free districts. With creation authorized by the legislature in 1917 and repealed in 1944, creation was reauthorized exclusively for Suffolk Countymarker in 1981. Such districts already established were not affected by the repeal.

City school district

City school districts are only present in cities. In those cities with populations exceeding 125,000 (New York City, Buffalomarker, Yonkersmarker, Rochestermarker, and Syracusemarker), these districts are coterminous with the city limits, and education is part of the municipal budget. These districts cannot incur debts or levy taxes. The governmental structure in all of these except for New York is that of an elected or appointed board of education. New York's public education is headed by a chancellor and has a 13-member all-appointed Department of Education Panel for Education Policy.

Districts for the 57 cities having fewer than 125,000 people are separate from the municipal government and are authorized to levy taxes and incur debt. Each of them is governed by an elected board of education with five, seven, or nine members. Districts for smaller cities often extend beyond the city borders and are referred to as "enlarged city school districts", seven of which have reorganized as "central city school districts".

Supervisory school district

Owing to the extremely large number (730) of school districts, many of which are quite small, most of them are organized into 37 supervisory districts. Each of these has a Board of Cooperative Educational Services . Each BOCES provides services which are considered difficult for the member school districts to provide on their own, often including special classes for students with disabilities.

Fire district

Fire districts are public corporations which generally provide fire protection and other emergency response in towns outside villages. Villages generally provide their own fire protection, but joint town-village fire districts are permitted. A fire district can levy taxes and incur debt. Although they operate under certain fiscal restrictions, these districts enjoy a great deal of autonomy in budgeting. The town which the district serves receives the budget and collects the taxes but has no power to amend the budget. The district is governed by a board of elected commissioners.

Another form of a fire district is the Joint Fire District. This is a fire district that encompasses more than one town, wholly or in part, and may also include a village. This is some times done to reduce duplication of services in a small area or to help spread the tax burden when there is a large difference in tax base between neighboring towns. A joint fire district may also be formed when a fire department in a village that has fire protection districts in the surrounding towns separates it self from the village government to obtain greater self-governance. This was seen in 2003 when the fire department in the village of Baldwinsvillemarker formed a joint fire district consisting of the village of Baldwinsville and parts of the towns of Lysandermarker and Van Burenmarker in Onondaga Countymarker .

Fire protection district

A fire protection district is established by a town board in order to contract fire protection services with any city, village, fire district or incorporated fire company.

Public benefit corporation/authority

Public benefit corporations in New York operate like quasi-private corporations, generally with boards appointed by elected officials. They are a form of government bureaucracy in one sense but, unlike government agencies, public benefit corporations are exempt from some regulations. Of particular importance, they can take out their own debt, allowing them to bypass legal limits on state debt. This allows them to make potentially risky capital and infrastructure investments without putting so much of the credit of New York on the line. However, it also allows them to avoid many of the oversight and reporting regulations which apply to state government.

Public benefit corporations get charters from New York and are usually designed to perform a specific, narrow function in the public interest. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority manages public transportation in the New York Metropolitan Area (this includes the New York Subway and public bus systems, as well as Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road, and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority). The New York State Thruway Authority originally only maintained the New York State Thruway from New York City to the Pennsylvania border southwest of Buffalomarker, but due to budgetary maneuvering, now maintains the toll-free I-84 corridor, and the New York State Barge Canal. Many regions also have authorities to manage their local public transportation such as the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority manages much of the public transportation in and around Syracusemarker and the Capital District Transportation Authority for the Capital Districtmarker area around Albanymarker, Schenectadymarker, Troymarker, and Saratoga Springsmarker.

Library district

Library districts are usually coextensive with the same school district but raise taxes separately and serve all the residents of the library district. They often form cooperative associations with other library districts for shared services, purchasing and cross-library lending.

Other types of special purpose units

Other special districts may include emergency rescue squads(also known as Consolidated Health Districts), sanitation, police, water, sewer, park, and parking.

See also



References

  1. Census Designated Place (CDP) Program for the 2010 Census - Final Criteria, Federal Register, February 13, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 30), accessed December 5, 2008.
  2. For example, the boundaries of the Bethpage postal district do not include all of the Bethpage School District, but do include areas within some surrounding school districts (such as the hamlet and CDP called Plainedge, which has neither its own post office nor fire district). The Oyster Bay Post Office, besides including the hamlet of Oyster Bay and parts of several other hamlets, also includes several surrounding villages.
  3. Available at New York State Library Digital Image Project.
  4. [1]


External links

New York State government links

General local government information



New York State Constitution

The articles of the New York State Constitution ( external link) which most closely affect local government are:
  • Article VIII: Local Finances
  • Article IX: Local Governments


New York State Consolidated Laws

The New York State Consolidated Laws [51028] which most closely affect local government are

Other links



Further reading




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