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New York Research In-Depth

This guide explains the process of making laws and regulations in the state of New York.

Local Governments

Article IX of the New York Constitution, the Municipal Home Rule Law, and the Statute of Local Governments provide the framework of powers granted by the state to local governments. Local governments include the governments of counties, cities, towns, and villages. The county is New York State's primary political subdivision. In New York State, there are sixty-two counties. Within many of these counties are cities which have their own local governments. Five of these sixty-two counties -- Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond -- make up of the City of New York and do not have their own county governments.

Many counties have adopted charters establishing the basic form of organization and administration of the counties. Operations of those local governments without charters are governed by the County Law (Chapter 11 of the New York State Consolidated Laws) in combination with local and special laws.

The following are helpful online resources for more information about New York local governments:

Local Laws

A local government must file certified copies of the law locally and with the Secretary of State within twenty days of the law's final adoption and/or approval in order for the law to be effective. Local laws have not been published by the Secretary of State as required by law in recent years. Each municipality (local government) is required to designate a newspaper of notice in which to publish its local laws.

Where to Find Charters, Ordinances, and Codes

New York City

The state legislature created the City of New York as a local government in 1897. It is made up of five counties: Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond. Although the City of New York is made up of different counties, these counties do not have self-governance powers. The City also comprises five political subdivisions called boroughs, each of which in coextensive with one county: The Bronx: Bronx County; Brooklyn: Kings County; Manhattan: New York County; Queens: Queens County; Staten Island: Richmond County.

The Home Rule Amendment of 1924 to the Constitution gave the city the power to pass its own local laws. Before then, all local enactments were termed ordinances. The Charter of 1936 replaced the Municipal Assembly with the City Council which was given legislative power by Chapter 2 of the New York City Charter.

List of NYC Agencies provides brief descriptions of responsibilities of each New York City agency and provides links to each agency's website.

Here are a few of the more important New York City Government websites:

  • New York City Law Department
    • Includes the Corporation Counsel, the city's attorney in all civil matters, as well as in the juvenile delinquency proceedings brought in the Family Court and certain code enforcement proceedings in the New York City Criminal Court
  • Office of the Mayor
  • Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH)
    • Functions as a central and independent adjudicative body with the authority to conduct administrative hearings for any agency, board, or commission of the city
  • Office of the Comptroller 
    • The Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer of the City of New York and an independently elected official