A User’s Guide
to New York City’s
Elected Positions

Gotham Gazette

City Hall

New York City voters will make their picks for a half-dozen offices or more on November 7, with registered members of several parties casting votes even earlier—in the September 12 primary. Some of the names and offices, like Bill de Blasio the mayor, are familiar to everyone. Others, like the five borough presidents, have a lower profile. In all cases, it’s probably a good idea for voters to get a better understanding of what powers each of these officials actually has. Here’s a quick rundown:


  • elected citywide to a term of four years with a limit of two consecutive terms.
  • makes a salary of $258,750 per year
  • chief executive officer of the city,
  • can sign or veto laws passed by the City Council, including land-use changes via the ULURP process
  • proposes the city’s annual budget
  • appoints all agency heads, like the police commissioner and schools chancellor, and can reorganize departments and their duties
  • appoints Criminal Court Judges, Family Court Judges, and Interim Civil Court Judges.
  • makes appointments to boards like the Civilian Complaint Review Board and Panel for Education Policy
  • appoints or nominates people to sit on the boards of non-city entities, like the MTA Board
  • issues a number of reports each year mandated by the City Charter, including the Mayor’s Management Report


Public Advocate

  • elected citywide to a term of four years with a limit of two consecutive terms.
  • makes $184,800 a year
  • presides over general City Council meetings
  • is technically a limited member of the City Council and of each of its committees; can submit legislation and participate in Council discussions but not vote
  • monitors city agencies’ systems for informing the public and for receiving and addressing citizen complaints, and make recommendations for improving them
  • investigates citizen complaints and city programs
  • has the right under the charter to “timely access to those records and documents of city agencies” she needs to complete her investigations
  • is responsible for reporting the failure of any City agency or official to comply with the New York City Charter
  • makes appointments to some city boards
  • becomes interim mayor if the mayor vacates office



  • elected citywide to a term of four years with a limit of two consecutive terms.
  • makes a salary of $209,050 a years
  • is the city’s chief financial officer
  • maintains the city’s financial records
  • advises the mayor and Council on the financial condition of the city
  • audits city agencies
  • verifies invoices before the city pays them
  • registers all city contracts
  • settles financial claims for or against the city
  • creates and maintains the city’s accounting procedures
  • oversees the city’s pension funds
  • determines credit needs, terms and conditions and issues and sells City obligations. The employees of the Office include accountants, attorneys, computer
  • manages the sinking funds and all other City-held trust funds
  • makes appointments to some city boards
  • becomes interim mayor in the event the offices of mayor and public advocate is vacated


Borough President

  • in each of the five boroughs, is elected boroughwide for a term of four years with a limit of two consecutive terms.
  • makes a salary of $179,200 per year
  • submits recommendations to the mayor for the city’s annual expense and capital budgets
  • renders advisory opinions on Land-Use issues
  • can propose legislation in the City Council
  • can recommend capital performed in the borough and monitors capital work there
  • monitors city contracts performed in the borough
  • appoints members of community boards, with half the members of each board nominated by the local City Councilmember(s).
  • can hold public hearings on matters of public interest
  • operates a borough board that oversees service delivery in each borough
  • operates a planning office
  • makes appointments to boards like the Panel for Education policy.
  • prepares an annual strategic policy statement for the borough


City Councilmember

  • in each of 51 Council Districts, is normally elected to a four-year term, but in every 20-year cycle there are two, two-year terms to allow for redistricting following a Census. The next two-year terms will be after the 2021 and 2023 election. Members are restricted to two consecutive full four-year terms; two, two-year terms count at one four-year term, and partial terms—such as occur when a person is elected to the Council by special election—do not count as a full term.
  • makes a base salary of $148,500 a year, although committee heads can receive more. (The Speaker of the Council, who is elected by the members, makes $164,500 a year.)
  • approves the city budget
  • makes laws and can override mayoral vetoes
  • approves land-use changes like rezonings and can override mayoral vetoes of those
  • can oversee and investigate city agencies and programs, and has subpoena power
  • has the power of advice and consent over mayoral appointments to some city boards and commissions
  • has some powers of appointment: For instance, Councilmembers nominate half the members of each community board and the Speaker appoints members of certain city boards


District Attorney

  • elected from each borough for a term of four years. Brooklyn and Manhattan district attorneys are elected in the same year as municipal offices like mayor (i.e., this year). The DAs for the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island are on a different cycle and will next be elected in 2019.
  • makes $212,800 a year
  • protests the public by investigating and prosecuting criminal conduct
  • handles criminal appeals at all levels of state and federal courts.
  • prosecutes forfeiture proceedings
  • extradites criminals from outside the state
  • works with victims of crime


District Leader

  • a position within a political party; not all parties have them
  • votes on chair of the county party
  • appoints election workers
  • helps to select judicial nominees


Delegate to the Judicial Convention (Alternate Delegate to the Judicial Convention)

  • a position within a political party; not all parties have them
  • elected by district
  • unpaid
  • attends a convention to elect individuals to the New York State Supreme Court

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Sources: New York City Charter, New York City Council Website, Advisory Commission for the Review of Compensation of Elected Officials, Grassroots Initiative

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