What Does A Borough President Actually Do?


The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan all have open seats for Borough President this 12 months. The notable exception is the Queens BP slot, the place the incumbent—who simply gained his seat—has to run once more.

The BP place could seem to hold a whole lot of weight, however that is determined by who you discuss to in your borough. On one hand, it is the very best place in a borough, full with a big workers and the power to carry hearings and challenge studies. Alternatively, the position is basically ceremonial.

That wasn’t at all times the case. Up till 30 years in the past, borough presidents had been within the room the place all of it occurred, making choices as a member of the now-defunct Board of Estimate that included the mayor, Council president (equal to the speaker), and comptroller. The Board of Estimate’s powers included shaping the New York Metropolis finances, deciding the appointment of comfortable metropolis contracts or the place to position city-run amenities, and voting on land use issues. Whereas the mayor, the Council president, and the comptroller every had two votes, borough presidents had only one vote. Even so, borough presidents had some actual leverage, and it was higher than the Metropolis Council, which had just about no energy.

However the U.S Supreme Court docket dismantled the Board of Estimate in 1989 after a number of legal professionals challenged its constitutionality. In a unanimous determination, the courtroom discovered the board violated the Fourteenth Modification, particularly the “one particular person, one vote” rule, since one borough president with a a lot bigger inhabitants had the identical illustration over one other borough president with a smaller inhabitants.

This compelled New York Metropolis to replace its Metropolis Constitution, and by the point 1990 rolled in, the New York Metropolis Council and the mayor’s workplace really managed the levers of energy. Borough presidents had been now not within the room, left solely with a fraction of the ability they as soon as possessed.

The lack of energy does not make the job fully futile. To at the present time, it is nonetheless a sought-after gig, as this 12 months demonstrates (there are myriad of candidates operating in all borough president races in any case). The job nonetheless comes with an unlimited megaphone to assist amplify important borough-based points, along with another perks:

An Official Ambassador

The borough president largely serves as an envoy for his or her borough with a direct line to the mayor and even governor to debate prevailing points impacting their nook of New York Metropolis. Typically the connection could be frosty, as within the case of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Mayor Invoice de Blasio, or extremely useful as is the case with Diaz and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Borough presidents can achieve the higher hand on a difficulty by weaponizing what acquired them into workplace to start with: appeal and other people expertise. It is maybe the best software of their restricted bucket.

A Say In Land Use

The borough president doesn’t make the ultimate name on land use issues, particularly the rezoning of a given neighborhood (that’s left as much as the Council member the place mentioned rezoning would occur, with members honoring their vote), however they’re empowered to supply an advisory vote throughout what is commonly a prolonged public evaluation course of. They usually can do that by holding public hearings on any proposed rezoning (and, actually, on any challenge, although it seldom occurs), utilizing it as an auxiliary bully pulpit to make the case for or towards a rezoning.

They Appoint Members To Varied Panels

A borough president’s attain extends to the members appointed by BPs to numerous boards and panels, together with half the members to a borough’s group boards; one member to the Panel for Instructional Coverage to resolve on school-related issues; and one member to the Metropolis Planning Fee that evaluations zoning purposes. Borough presidents are additionally ex-officio members of native enterprise enchancment districts that assist keep and market business strips. These appointments function proxy votes for the borough president, whose politics and coverage beliefs are aligned with the BP’s. They’re additionally self-appointed members to the New York Metropolis Staff’ Retirement System, which has affect over the pension fund.

Tiny Management Of The Finances

As the highest govt and middleman between native and extra centralized New York Metropolis authorities, the borough president is allotted 5% of the town’s annual discretionary capital finances annually, which is then earmarked for colleges, community-based organizations, hospitals, transportation initiatives, and historic landmarks. Functions are despatched to the borough president’s workplace for evaluation throughout finances season.

Suggest Laws

Like the general public advocate, a borough president can suggest laws by means of a Council member who then introduces the invoice “on the behest of the borough president.” Such a observe has labored out for borough presidents, together with present Manhattan BP Gale Brewer, who launched numerous laws that included the enlargement of paid sick time, accessible pedestrian indicators, and the Honest Probability Act, which makes it unlawful for employers to ask a few potential worker’s legal report. All of these payments had been handed.

Who’s Working for Borough President in 2021?