Overview of New York City

Politics of New York City

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The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation with a constitutional republic. America prides itself on being a democracy, but in actuality is a representative democracy. To place checks on these elected officials, the U.S. Constitution regulates a strict system of checks and balances. The constitution remains the country's supreme legal document and as a social contract for the American people.

In the American federalist system, there are three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district.

The federal government is also composed of three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

  • The Legislative is the bicameral Congress which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives and is responsible for making federal law, declaring war, approving treaties, and has the power of impeachment.
  • The Executive branch consists of the president, commander-in-chief.
  • The last branch is Judicial, which is made up of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts. Their primary job is to interpret laws and they can overturn laws they deem unconstitutional.

New York City politics once were dominated by a political machine known as Tammany Hall. The organization was based on patronage and "behind-the-scenes" control and was mostly supported by the many Irish Catholic immigrants who flooded into the city in the early 1800s. The Tammany Society, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was founded on May 12, 1789. The name and many of the groups customs were derived from the Native Americans who first lived in New York, the Lenape. The first leader of the "tribe" was called the Grand Sachem and was named William Mooney. From here, the party continued to expand in power and eventually supported Aaron Burr, who was curiously never a member of the Society. Burr used the Tammany Society for the election of 1800, in which he was elected Vice President. Without Tammany, many believe, President John Adams might have won New York state's electoral votes and won reelection.

After 1829, Tammany Hall became the city affiliate of the Democratic Party and continued to control most of the New York City elections. The Tammany Hall "ward boss" served as the local vote gatherer and provider of patronage. Tammany Hall's power finally collapsed in the difficult years of the Great Depression around 1930. The election of non-Tammany Hall Fiorello LaGuardia as mayor in 1933 marked the fall of the group after eighty years of political dominance.

New York City is a metropolitan municipality with a "strong" mayor-council form of government. This makes the area's government more centralized than most other U.S. cities. Party platforms tend to center on affordable housing, education and economic development, and labor politics. The state tends to be more liberal than in many of the neighboring NE states. New York was once a powerful swing state in presidential elections, but today the state is almost always an uncontested "blue state"-meaning that it is presumed safe for the Democrats. A few Republicans have held the office of Mayor of New York City, but most have had to support liberal social issues to reflect the will of the people. For a list and history of mayors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayor_of_New_York_City#History_of_the_office.

The current mayor is Michael Bloomberg, a former Democrat and current independent elected as a Republican in 2001 and re-elected in 2005 with 59% of the vote. Bloomberg has been aggressive in his attempts to improve schools, reform health care, and keeping illegal guns off the streets.

For current and on-point political news, refer to the http://www.gothamgazette.com/.

New York's City Hall is located at the center of City Hall Park in the Civic Center section of Lower Manhattan. The building is the oldest City Hall in the United States that still houses its original governmental functions. City Hall houses the office of the Mayor of New York City and the chambers of the New York City Council. Constructed from 1803 to 1812, City Hall is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

New York City Hall
253 Broadway # 9
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-0010

The official New York City government website: www.nyc.gov/

Update 2/01/2009

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