New York City Charter

The state of New York first granted New York City the power of self government by charter in 1665. The Charter, which is the equivalent of the City’s Constitution, can be revised by local law. Major revisions are usually left to special Charter Revision Commissions.  The Charter establishes the structure of city government and allocates government powers.

The Charter is available on the official New York City website and the New York State Legislature website.  The Charter is also available on LexisNexis (NY;NYCCHT), Lexis Advance, Westlaw (NYC-C) and Bloomberg Law.

The New York City Charter and Administrative Code, REF KFX 2003 .A3 1986a, is An annotated print version.

Additional cases citing to the Charter can be located with Shepard’s New York Statute Citations, REF KFN 5039 .S52.

Local Laws

Legislative power is vested in the City Council under the N.Y.C. Charter.  City Council bills are called intros. Intros are numbered within each City Council term. Upon introduction, the Intro is referred to committees, which consider amendments, hold hearings, and decide whether to present the Intro to the full City Council for a final vote. Intros that are passed by the City Council and approved by the Mayor become local laws. The Mayor has veto power; vetoes can be overridden by 2/3 of the City Council.  Local laws are numbered chronologically within each year.

Intros since 1990 are available on the City Council website.

In print, intros are published in the New York City Report (1977-), KFX 2003 .A195 N48 and in the City of New York Council Digest (1990-), which is available at the New York Public Library, SIBL branch.

Local laws passed since 1990 can be found on the City Council website. Local laws are also available on Westlaw (NYC-AMEND) and Bloomberg Law.

In print, local laws are published in the New York City Legislative Annual (1980-), KFX 2003 .A7 N48x, the New York City Report (1977-), KFX 2003 .A195 N48, and the New York City Charter and Code (1986-) REF KFX 2003 .A3 1986a (soft-bound supplements), which provides both local laws and state session laws amending the Administrative Code. Earlier local laws can be found in Local Laws of the Cities in the State of New York (1925-1969)(various titles), KFN 5754. L63.

Cases citing to the local laws can be located with Shepard’s New York Statute Citations, `REF KFN 5039 .S52.

Administrative Code

The laws of New York City are codified in the Administrative Code.  The Administrative Code is organized by subject into 27 titles.

The Administrative Code is available on the New York State Legislature website. The Administrative Code is also available on LexisNexis (NY;NYCMUN) and Westlaw (NYC-CODE).

An annotated print version, New York City Charter and Administrative Code, REF KFX 2003 .A3 1986a, is also available.

Additional cases citing and interpreting the Administrative Code can be located with Shepard’s New York Statute Citations, REF KFN 5039 .S52 and with Ordinance Law Annotations, KF 5313 .O72, also available on Westlaw (ORDLAWANNO), a digest of cases interpreting ordinances throughout the United States, including New York City.

Legislative Intent

Some legislative history is available for New York City local laws.  Council committees publish reports, hold hearings and issue briefing papers. Both the Mayor’s Office and the City Council compile legislative histories known as “bill jackets”. Local law bill jackets typically contain drafts of the bill, reports, memoranda, and correspondence. The Mayor’s bill jackets are retained by the Mayor’s Office until the end of his term and are subsequently transferred to the Municipal Archives. The Municipal Archives maintains Local Law folders containing historical material including, in some instances, the bill jackets. City Council bill jackets are not centrally located and are generally extremely difficult to obtain. The fee-based New York Legislative Service ( http://www.nyls.org) compiles local law legislative histories including the bill jackets.

Selected legislative intent material is also available in the New York City Legislative Annual (1980-), KFX 2003 .A7 N48x and online at the City Council’s Legislative Research Center. City Council committee reports are available on Westlaw (NYC-MUN).

State Laws Affecting New York City

New York State may pass laws affecting New York City via general laws applicable throughout the state and upon a home rule request by the Mayor or City Council.  These state statutes are found in the Consolidated Laws of the State of New York. Use the index for McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated, REF & RES KFN 5030 .A4 M15, Westlaw (NY-ST-ANN) or New York Consolidated Laws Service, REF KFN 5030 .1976 A23, LexisNexis (NY;NYCODE).

The annual supplements to the New York City Charter and Administrative Code, REF KFX 2003 .A3 1986a publishes state session laws affecting New York City.

Rules for the City of New York

The Rules are promulgated by New York City agencies and departments and are organized into 71 titles.

The Rules for the City of New York can be found on the internet at NYC Rules!  Many city agencies post their regulations on their websites. The Rules are available on LexisNexis (NY;NYCRUL) and Westlaw (NYC-RULES).

An annotated print version, the Official Compilation of the Rules of the City of New York, with Annotations, REF KFX 2003 .A3 2003, is also available. The print version is updated with semi-annual pocket parts.

Proposed rules are published in the City Record which is widely available at branches of the New York Public Library as well as at the City Hall Library, the Municipal Archives and online.  City agencies and departments are usually required to hold hearings.  New and proposed rules can be identified using the monthly index to the City RecordNYC Rules! also provides information on proposed and newly adopted rules.

Case Law

Trial courts operating in New York City include the New York City Civil Court, the New York City Criminal Court, Housing Court, Family Court, Commercial Division, Domestic Violence Courts, and the Surrogate’s Court.  Appeals from the trial courts go to the Supreme Court, Appellate Term or the Supreme Court, Appellate Division.  Relatively few trial court decisions are readily available. 

Many trial court decisions can be found on the internet at the New York State Unified Court System’s web site including decisions published in the Official Reports. Summaries of selected landlord tenant cases can be found on the Tenant Network.

New York City cases, including some unpublished cases, are available on Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis (NY;NYCTS) and Westlaw (NY-CS).

Selected cases from New York City trial courts are published in the Miscellaneous Reports and in the New York Supplement. The most extensive collection of New York City court cases are published in the New York Law Journal, RES & Microfilm PNe864. Housing court cases can be found in the New York City Housing Court Reporter (1983-), KFX 2005 .5 H69. Since 2003, decisions and the Digest are available on the New York Law Journal web site(subscription required).  New York Law Journal cases from 1989 to date are also available on Lexis (ALM;NYALM). 

Locate cases published in the Miscellaneous Reports and in the New York Supplement using the New York Digests.  Decisions published in the New York Law Journal from 1997 to 2003 can be identified using the Law Journal Digest, KFN 5047 .1 D54.

Agency Decisions

New York City agencies and departments sometimes issue administrative decisions.

Although city agency web sites provide a great deal of valuable information, they usually do not include administrative decisions. A considerable body of New York City administrative decisions is available on the Center for New York City Law web site (http://www.citylaw.org).

Find available New York City administrative decisions organizes by agency on Lexis by following the links: Legal > States Legal > New York > Find Statutes, Regulations, Administrative Materials & Court Rules > By Administrative Materials. On Westlaw, navigate via Directory > U.S. State Materials > New York > Administrative & Executive Materials.

In hard copy, some administrative decisions are published by the individual agencies while others are published privately.  A detailed list of sources for New York City agency decisions can be found in Chapter 26 of Gibson’s New York Legal Research Guide (3rd ed. 2004), RES & REF KFN 5074 .G53 2004.

Additional Resources

A comprehensive guide to New York City law is available in William H. Manz, Gibson’s New York Legal Research Guide (3rd ed. 2004), RES & REF KFN 5074 .G53 2004.

The City Hall Library and the Municipal Archives at the Department of Records together represent a comprehensive depository of city government materials including City Council minutes, mayoral archives, and agency publications. The collection includes the full text of mayoral executive orders since 1964.

The NYC Green Book lists city, county and state agencies, describes their functions, and provides contact information for key personnel. The Official New York City web site includes links to city government web sites and other government information.