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Administrative divisions of New York (state)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Separate municipal buildings for the town and village of Monroe in Orange County
Separate municipal buildings for the town and village of Monroe in Orange County

The administrative divisions of New York are the various units of government that provide local government services in the state of New York.

The state is divided into counties, cities, towns, and villages. Cities, towns and villages are municipal corporations with their own governments that provide most local government services.[1] Whether a municipality is defined as a city, town, or village is dependent not on population or land area, but rather on the form of government selected by the residents and approved by the state legislature.[2][3][4] Each such government is granted varying home rule powers as provided by the New York Constitution.[5] New York has various corporate entities that serve single purposes that are also local governments, such as school and fire districts.[5]

New York has 62 counties,[6][7] which are subdivided into 932 towns[4] and 62 cities;[3] it also has 10 Indian reservations.[8] In total, the state has more than 3,400 active local governments and more than 4,200 taxing jurisdictions.[9][10]

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[Music] [Narrator:] We are convinced that fulltime health service can be rendered New York State citizens most effectively under a district plan of administration. Thirty state health districts and subdistricts are now in operation or will be in operation at an early date. The five county health departments are integral parts of their respective districts. Suitable quarters are provided for district offices, such as those at Albany and Buffalo. A fulltime district state health officer is in charge of each district. Civil service qualifications for new district officers include a medical degree, a postgraduate course in public health, and five years fulltime experience. The district officer is the commissioner's representative and authorized to act for him. He has available for technical advice the directors of the eleven divisions and two district health directors. Besides the district officer, the average district staff includes an assistant district officer, a district supervising nurse, one or more engineers, supervising-in-field public health nurses, and a clerical staff. Full records are kept in all district offices, such as syphilis and tuberculosis registers, maintained and checked according to the status of each case. District offices conduct the state program through 798 local health officers and five county health commissioners. There are frequent conferences with local health officers. When serious epidemics or unusual circumstances occur, assistance is given to the district officer by temporary assignments from other districts, or the central office. District staffs are flexible and not subject to local authority. An important function of the district officer is the preliminary field training of young physicians, and participation and selection of physicians for academic postgraduate training and careers in public health. The district state supervising nurse supervises nurses employed by the department, as well as many employed locally. She has a responsibility for the training and selection of nurses, similar to that of the district officer for physicians. The district officer has a part in all the departments' major activity. [ Music ] New York State is now conducting an experimental field study to determine the feasibility of nursing delivery service as part of the generalized nursing program in a rural county. Because of persistently high infant mortality, preponderance of home delivery, and maternal deaths chiefly in rural sections, St. Lawrence County was selected. Conferences were held of state and local health officials and with local physicians, hospital, and welfare representatives. The country was zoned for accessibility. Ten nurses and a supervising nurse who was midwife-trained were assigned. The nurses were equipped with cars, fitted bags, and electric lanterns as well as strong snow shovels. Nurses instruct prospective mothers and help them make their preparations. [ Music ] Obstetric packages for use by the doctors in home deliveries were made and assembled in WPA sewing rooms, and by volunteer groups of women. The nurses supervised the work and assembled the packages for sterilizing at the local milk plant. [ Music ] The doctor, arriving for a delivery, finds a nurse in charge, room and patient prepared, and hot water ready. Towels and sterile supplies are waiting in the package. The electric lantern is better than the kerosene lamp, and the nurse is a willing, efficient helper. Nurse returns next morning to bathe baby, care for mother, and instruct neighbor or relative. This doctor believes the service is meeting a real need and appreciates the work of the nurses, who in addition to general duties, have assisted at 84 home deliveries and supervised 431 patients during the first six months of the demonstration. [ Music ] Engineering is a major branch of public health work. Reduction in typhoid fever in New York State has been due in large measure to the control exercised by the Division of Sanitation over water, milk, and sewage disposal. Engineers supervise the sanitary quality of water supplied to more than twelve million persons. Over 90 percent of the water consumed in New York State receives treatment. Many water purification plants have been constructed as a result of recommendations made by department engineers. Water supplies are inspected frequently and subjected to routine bacteriological tests at regular intervals. In milk-borne disease outbreaks, all suspected cows are examined by a department veterinarian. For assured safety, the department urges the use of pasteurized milk. Pasteurizing plants are inspected frequently. Routine tests used in laboratory-controlled milk supplies are the direct microscopic count to determine quality of the raw product, the phosphatase test to determine the thoroughness of pasteurization of the milk, and the Coli test to detect contamination after pasteurization. Pollution of streams is being abated by requiring installation [?] sewage treatment plant, regularly inspected by department engineers. More than one hundred plants have been constructed in New York State since 1930. Plans for all sewerage improvements must receive approval of the Division of Sanitation prior to construction. In five years, the value of works represented by such plans has amounted to more than one hundred million dollars. Two thousand swimming pools throughout the state are supervised by the division as well as 3,000 summer and tourist camps, which provide accommodations annually for two million persons. Routine work of the Division of Sanitation is expedited by the assignment of district engineers and milk sanitarians to the staff of the various state health districts, enabling prompt service to be rendered in connection with any sanitary problems arising within the district. [ Music ] New York State's program for the control of pneumonia embraces a variety of activities. Anti-pneumococcus serums for the treatment of the five types for which it has been proved of value are produced and dispensed at no cost to physicians. Diagnostic serums for six types are dispensed to 112 approved laboratories and typing stations. Sputum is examined immediately by the Neufeld technique. Virulent flecks are mixed with each type of serum and examined. Blood cultures are highly important in cases of pneumonia. Extensive graduate medical education is being undertaken, in cooperation with the New York State Medical Society. Every available means of reaching the medical profession is being utilized in the belief that earlier diagnosis and wider and more adequate use of the serums now available may result. The need for teaching the general public the seriousness of certain of the early symptoms of pneumonia and the urgency of medical care is recognized. The mere availability of serum is insufficient, unless an enlightened public makes its early use possible. Skillful nursing care is important. Public health nurses throughout the state are devoting increasing time to bedside care, as well as to teaching demonstrations for pneumonia cases. The New York State Nurses Association is cooperating with the state health department in graduate education of its members. Research has resulted in further advances in the methods of production and refinement of the therapeutic serums. A series of sixteen hundred and sixty Type1 pneumonia cases, treated with serum produced and dispensed by the department, was accumulated during the first twenty months of the program. Fairly complete data are available on all of these, and their careful analysis gives promise of adding substantially to our knowledge of the limitations, requisites, and potentialities of serum treatment as a method of pneumonia control. [ Music ] The state of New York owns and maintains the oldest cancer research laboratory in the world, established in 1898. This hospital located in Buffalo, and called The State Institute for the Study of Malignant Disease, has research facilities in all branches of science and a bed capacity of a hundred and thirty after completion of a new wing. The state institute is equipped with a complete surgical department and modern X-ray and radium appliances for the diagnosis and treatment of malignant disease. [ Music ] There are eight grams of radium at the state institute--two in solution, and six grams of the insoluble salt. As much radium as is possessed by any hospital in the world. As radium in solution disintegrate, it gives off a gas which can be utilized only after it is removed from the solution by means of oil and mercury pumps. Modern shockproof x-ray machines are available for the treatment of malignant growth. Last year 3,645 new patients were admitted to this hospital for diagnosis and treatment. This service is free to all residents of New York State who are recommended for examination and treatment by their family physicians. An extensive educational program is being carried on for the purpose of dispelling fear of cancer, and impressing upon the laity that there is a cure if the disease is recognized in its early stages. It is always borne in mind that this is primarily an institute for the study of malignant disease and every opportunity is embraced to conduct a continuous program of research in the unsolved problems of cancer control. [ Music ] Since 1916, New York State has been rebuilding its crippled children and now spends more than one and a half million dollars annually on their rehabilitation and education. Through efforts of the orthopedic nurses and family physicians, they are brought to clinics for examination by an orthopedic surgeon. If a child has a condition that can definitely be improved, arrangements are made to admit the youngster to a local institution that meets the state requirements, or to the New York State Reconstruction Home at West Haverstraw. [ Music ] Here, specialized surgery is available when needed. Hospital care by specially-trained nurses guards the child if an operation is necessary. Physiotherapy aids his recovery. Trained teachers work with him so that when he goes home he will be able to follow along with his schoolmates. Outside activities keep the youngsters busy and happy. Some of them have reached a point where their physical condition will permit them to carry on restricted activities on the playground. A twelve-piece orchestra furnishes music at the institution and plays at the annual state health conference at Saratoga Springs. You are listening to it now, playing a selection which is used as the theme music of the state health department's weekly radio program. [ Music ] When the patient is ready to leave the reconstruction home, she is returned to her home and family physician under the care of the orthopedic nurse and a field clinic service conducted by the State Department of Health. [ Music ] New York state's tuberculosis case- finding program is based on the fact that the control of tuberculosis depends on the prevention of spread of tuberculus infection. This can be accomplished by segregation, treatment, and education of the open cases of tuberculosis and by going out into the field and finding cases. Tuberculosis is a family problem and the most fertile source for finding new cases is among close household contacts of those having the disease. Early discovery of tuberculosis means early recovery. To that end our efforts should be devoted. Early tuberculosis is not characterized by any special signs or symptoms. And we should investigate other possible fertile sources for finding early cases. These men have been x-rayed. X-ray is our most valuable ally in discovering the disease in its earliest stages. And these workers, too, have been x-rayed. These normal school students, mostly young women at the age of greatest perceptibility to adult-type pulmonary tuberculosis are tuberculin tested and x-rayed yearly until graduation. Consecutive admissions to general hospitals are x-rayed. [ Music ] This patient had advanced disease when discovered. His treatment is prolonged, his prognosis is dubious. The cost to himself, family, and community is great. On the other hand, this patient was discovered early and after a suitable length of observation and treatment is well on the road to complete rehabilitation. It is real economy to spend money and effort to find the early case. [ Music ] Public health programs are effective only so far as they are taken to, understood, and accepted by the public. Frequent press stories are released to news services, local correspondents, and the 130 dailies and 540 weeklies in New York State. Health news is sent every week to fourteen thousand physicians, nurses, hospitals, libraries, public health workers, and other interested individuals and agencies. Qualified experts prepare special stories and pamphlets on health subjects. During the first nine months of 1937, one million two hundred and seventy five thousand of these educational pamphlets were distributed. From the beginning, visual instruction has been foremost among health education aids in New York. Now, 16 and 35-millimeter cameras record the progress of public health, and silent and sound projectors spread the story as told in a library of 50 film subjects. The health-mobile rolls over paved roads and country lanes with this equipment, as well as exhibits and displays and other portable educational material. Probably the most intimate approach into the homes of the people with the state's health message is radio. Each week since August 1933, health plays written, acted, and produced entirely within the State Department of Health have been presented from WGY Schenectady. Now, by means of electrical transcription recordings, these programs are broadcast throughout the state over a chain of 19 other radio stations. Then these electrical transcriptions are available by means of portable sound equipment for use before granges, parent-teacher associations, school classes, women's organizations, service clubs, and similar groups. From radio alone, since the beginning of the weekly play series, responses have been received from 745 different cities and villages in the state. Health education is reaching the people of New York State. [ Music ]


Home rule

Counties and incorporated municipal governments (also known as "general purpose units of local government"; i.e., 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 VIII (titled "Local Finances") and IX (titled "Local Government", but commonly referred to as the "Home Rule" article) of the state constitution establish the rights and responsibilities of the municipal governments.[5]

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.[5]


Map of the sixty-two counties of New York
Map of the sixty-two counties of New York

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 York and do not have functioning county governments.[7] 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.[6] Such services generally include law enforcement and public safety, social and health services (such as Medicaid), and education (special needs and community colleges).[11]

Every county outside of New York City has a county seat,[12] which is the location of county government.[13]

Nineteen counties operate under county charters, while 38 operate under the general provisions of the County Law. Although all counties have a certain latitude to govern themselves, "charter counties" are afforded greater home rule powers. The charter counties are Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Chemung, Dutchess, Erie, Herkimer, Monroe, Nassau, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Schenectady, Suffolk, Tompkins, Ulster, and Westchester.[14]

Sixteen counties are governed through an assembly with the power of a board of supervisors, composed of the 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 U.S. Supreme Court mandate of "one person, one vote". Other counties have legislative districts of equal population, which may cross municipal borders; these counties may also have an elected County Executive. Most counties in New York do not use the term "Board of Supervisors." 34 counties have a County Legislature, six counties have a Board of Legislators, and one county has a Board of Representatives. The five counties, or boroughs, of New York City are governed by a 51-member City Council.[citation needed]

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[citation needed].


In New York, each city is a highly autonomous incorporated area[3] that, with the exceptions of New York City[7] and Geneva,[15] is contained within one county. Cities in New York are classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as incorporated places.[16] They provide almost all services to their residents and have the highest degree of home rule and taxing jurisdiction over their residents.[citation needed] 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,[17] 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).[18] 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.[17] Cities are neither part of nor subordinate to towns[17] except for the city of Sherrill, which for some purposes is treated as if it were a village of the town of Vernon.[19] Some cities are completely surrounded by a town, typically of the same name.

There are sixty-two cities in the state.[3] 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.[20] In 1686, the English colonial governor granted the cities of New York and Albany 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.[3]

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.[21]

  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[21]

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 annexed[7] to become the "City of Greater New York",[22] (an unofficial term, the new city retained the name of New York), a process basically completed in 1898.[7] At the time of consolidation, Queens County 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 County.[22] The city today consists of the entire area of five counties (named New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx, and Richmond).[23] While these counties have no county government, boroughs — with boundaries coterminous 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.[7]

The most populous and largest city in the state is New York City, with a population of over 8.5 million inhabitants and comprising just over 300 sq mi (777.00 km2) of land (468.87 sq mi (1,214.368 km2) total area, which includes water). The least populous city is Sherrill, New York, with just 3,071 inhabitants in 2010. The smallest city by area is Mechanicville, New York, which covers 0.91 sq mi (2.4 km2) (of which 0.08 sq mi (0.2 km2) is water).[24]

Some places containing the word "city" in their name are not cities. Examples include Johnson City, Garden City, and New City.[25]


Towns can vary greatly in many characteristics, as shown here.
Map showing the boundaries of every town in New York, as well as cities not included within a town. New York City is shown as divided into boroughs.
Map showing the boundaries of every town in New York, as well as cities not included within a town. New York City is shown as divided into boroughs.

In New York, a town is a municipal corporation,[26] which is the major division of each county (excluding the five counties that comprise New York City), very similar to townships in other states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Towns in New York are classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as minor civil divisions.[27] As in most Northeastern states, every square foot of New York is incorporated; all residents who do not live in a city or on an Indian reservation live in a town. These 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.[28] There are 932 towns in New York.[4] 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.[20] Whereas cities and villages can cross county boundaries, all towns in New York are within a single county.

New York towns are classified by statute as being a town of the first class or a town of the second class. Additionally, a town of the first class can further be classified as a suburban town upon meeting certain criteria. Originally, towns of different classes possessed different powers. Since 1964, all towns, regardless of classification, have had the same legal powers as were once available only to suburban towns. Even so, towns of different classifications continue to have organizational differences and certain conditions that must be met before a town's classification changes.[29]

The town board serves as the legislative branch.[30] The board is composed of one elected supervisor (or chief executive officer in suburban towns) and a specific number of elected council persons; towns of the second class generally have two but may have four council persons, whereas towns of the first class generally have four but can have two or six.[29] The supervisor presides over the board, voting on all matters but not possessing veto or tie-breaking power. Certain towns operate under a town manager form of government, as permitted by legislation enacted in 1976.[31] All town justices were originally part of a town's board. Today, justices belong to a separate judicial branch[31] known as Town Court or Justice Court, part of New York's Justice Court system.[citation needed]

A town may contain one or more villages.[32] Five towns are coterminous with their single village: Green Island in Albany County; East Rochester in Monroe County; and Scarsdale, Harrison and Mount Kisco in Westchester County. When such an entity is formed, officials from either unit of government may serve in both village and town governments simultaneously.[18] 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.[33]

Towns can contain several hamlets and communities. If the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a post office in a hamlet it often will use the name of that hamlet, as will the local fire department or elementary school. 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 in New York may be further subdivided into wards, although as of 2017, only fifteen of the state's 932 towns used this system.[34] In towns operating under the ward system, citizens vote for councilmen who represent a specific area (ward) of the town, as opposed to the at-large councilmen elected in the majority of the state's towns.

Towns vary in size and population. The largest town by area is Brookhaven (Suffolk County), which covers 531.5 sq mi (1,377 km2), but more than half of that is water. The town of Webb (Herkimer County) has the greatest land area, at 451 sq mi (1,170 km2). The smallest town, Green Island (Albany County), covers 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2). The town of Hempstead (Nassau County) has about 760,000 people (2010 census), making it more populous than any city in the state except New York City. Red House (Cattaraugus County), the least populous, has 38 permanent residents (2010 census).[24]

The use of "town" in a community's name is irrespective of municipal status. Elizabethtown, Germantown and Stephentown are towns. Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, is a village, Jamestown and Middletown are cities, and Levittown is an unincorporated hamlet.[24]

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..."[35] that is not part of a city or a village[36] "...but is locally identified by a name."[35] CDPs may cross town and county borders.[37] CDPs are defined collaboratively by state and local officials and the Census Bureau.[35] They are defined for each census, and it is commonplace to change boundaries and define new CDPs for each census.[38]

The Census Bureau formerly referred to CDPs as "unincorporated places" from 1950 through the 1970 decennial censuses.[39][40] The term CDP was first used for the 1980 census, and minimum population criteria for CDPs were dropped with the 2000 Census.[39]


Sign for the Hamlet of Sand Lake within the Town of Sand Lake
Sign for the Hamlet of Sand Lake within the Town of Sand Lake

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 but is identified by a name, i.e. an unincorporated community. Hamlets often have names corresponding to the names of a local school district, post office, or fire district.[41] Because a hamlet has no government of its own, it depends upon the town or towns that contain it for municipal services and government.[2]

Suffolk County publishes maps that give hamlet boundaries,[41] but towns within the county also publish maps that conflict both in the number of hamlets and their boundaries.[42] Nevertheless, all land not within a village is administered by the town. Most of the rest of New York's hamlets, however, have less defined boundaries, and most towns have areas that are not considered to be a part of any hamlet. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) puts hamlet names on rectangular green signs with white lettering at roadside locations of its choosing.[43] The NYSDOT and local governments also provide community identification signs on some scenic byways to be placed at the roadside boundaries of hamlets, as decided by the sign provider.[44] Many towns have special zoning or planning districts and planning strategies for their hamlets,[45][46] and many place welcome signs at the gateways to the hamlets.[47]

Some hamlets are former villages that have dissolved their incorporation (Old Forge in Herkimer County; Rosendale, in Ulster County; and Andes in Delaware County, for example).[48]

The New York State Gazetteer, published by the New York State Department of Health in 1995, includes a list of hamlets in the state.[49] 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.[50]


The village of Pomona (red) in Rockland County is partly within two different towns.
The village of Pomona (red) in Rockland County is partly within two different towns.

In New York, a village is an incorporated area.[5] About 85% of villages fall within a single town.[18] Villages in New York State are classified by the Census Bureau as incorporated places.[16] Like all municipal corporations, villages have clearly defined legal boundaries. A village is a municipality that provides services to the residents, services that may or may not include garbage collection, management of cemeteries, street and highway maintenance, street lighting, and building codes.[citation needed] Some villages provide their own police and other municipal services. Villages have less autonomy than cities.[citation needed] Those services not provided by the village are provided by the town or towns containing the village.[citation needed] As of the 2000 census, 9.9% of the state's population was living in one of the 556 villages in New York.[20]

The legislature of a village is the board of trustees,[citation needed] composed of a mayor and (usually) four trustees.[citation needed] The board is responsible for approving mayoral appointments, managing village finances and property, and approving a budget.[51] 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.[51] The mayor generally does not possess veto power, unless this is provided for by local law.[citation needed] Administrative duties of the mayor include enforcing laws and supervising employees.[51] 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.[52] Some villages have their own village justice, while others utilize the justice of the town or towns in which they are located.[53]

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 Alexander, Carthage, Catskill, Cooperstown, Deposit, Fredonia, Ilion, Mohawk, Ossining, Owego, Port Chester, and Waterford. These villages must still comply with those aspects of Village Law that are not inconsistent with their charters.[18]

To be incorporated, the area of the proposed village must have at least 500 inhabitants[54] 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.[54] 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.[7] Some villages have fewer than 500 residents, having incorporated before the present population requirement of 500 or fallen below the 500-resident threshold after incorporation.[55][original research?]

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.[48]

About 15% 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 Lake is in three towns and two counties.[18]

Five towns are coterminous with their single village and have a coterminous town-village form of government.

Despite its name, Greenwich Village is not a village.[24]

Divisions unique to New York City


The five boroughs of New York City: 1. Manhattan, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Queens, 4. The Bronx, 5. Staten Island
The five boroughs of New York City: 1. Manhattan, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Queens, 4. The Bronx, 5. Staten Island

A borough is one of the five major administrative divisions of the consolidated city of New York. Boroughs do not exist elsewhere in the state. Each of the five boroughs of the city is coextensive with a county of the state of New York.[7] Under the New York State's General Municipal Law, a borough results when the towns, villages and cities in a county merge with the county itself.[citation needed] This occurred in 1898 when the city merged with surrounding counties, cities and towns to form its present configuration. The five boroughs are:

The boroughs were originally intended to retain some local governance in the consolidated city. Each borough individually elects a borough president and used to elect two at-large city council members, in addition to those elected based on each borough's population. 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. Boroughs function as counties for certain purposes, but have no county government.[6] Each of the five New York City district attorneys, however, are still elected by county (for example, the district attorney for Brooklyn is called the Kings County District Attorney).

Community districts

There are fifty-nine community districts in New York City, each represented by an appointed advisory group called a community board. 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. Each is 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

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.[citation needed]

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 any children living with them attend school.[56] 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.[citation needed]

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.[56]

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)[57]

There are five types of school districts in the state,[56] 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.[56]

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 either by contracting with other districts or being located in one of the three central high school districts. Each union free school district is governed by a three- to nine-member board of education.[58]

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.[59]

Central high school district

There are only three central high school districts in New York state, all in Nassau County[60] (Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District,[61] Sewanhaka Central High School District,[62] and Valley Stream Central High School District).[63] 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 County in 1981. Such districts already established were not affected by the repeal.[60]

City school district

In those cities with populations exceeding 125,000 (New York City, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, and Syracuse), the city school 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.[59]

The city school 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".[59]

Supervisory school district (BOCES)

Owing to the extremely large number (730)[64] of school districts, many of which are quite small, most of them are organized into 37[65] supervisory districts. Each of these has a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). Each BOCES provides services that 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 that generally provide fire protection and other emergency response in towns outside villages.[66] A fire district can levy taxes and incur debt just like other general purpose municipal corporations,[66] although fire districts do not have home rule powers[67] and the taxes are generally collected by the town or towns that the district serves.[66] Fire districts depend on their towns for initial establishment, expansion of district territory, and dissolution, but are otherwise thereafter autonomous political entities[66] able to exercise only those specific powers granted to them by statute.[67] The district is governed by a board of elected commissioners.[citation needed]

Villages generally provide their own fire protection, but joint town-village fire districts are permitted. A Joint Fire District 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 itself from the village government to obtain greater self-governance. This was seen in 2003 when the fire department in the village of Baldwinsville formed a joint fire district consisting of the village of Baldwinsville and parts of the towns of Lysander and Van Buren in Onondaga County.[citation needed]

There were 868 fire districts in New York at the end of 2003.[66]

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. Unlike fire districts, fire protection districts are not authorized to levy property taxes and do not have an independently elected board of commissioners. The levy to support fire protection districts is part of the town levy and the oversight of the district is via the town board.[68]

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 that 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 Buffalo, but due to budgetary maneuvering, now maintains the toll-free Interstate 287 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, which manages much of the public transportation in and around Syracuse; and the Capital District Transportation Authority for the Capital District area around Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga Springs.

At the end of 2005, there were 866 public benefit corporations,[69] of which 266 were public authorities.[70]

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


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  2. ^ a b Local Government Handbook, p. 67.
  3. ^ a b c d e Local Government Handbook, p. 51.
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  6. ^ a b c Local Government Handbook, p. 39.
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  63. ^ "Our District --District Data & Staff". Valley Stream Central High School District. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2009-07-14. The Valley Stream Central High School District is one of only three New York State Districts covering grades 7-12 exclusively.
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Further reading

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) that 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 [1] that most closely affect local government are

Other links

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