$25 billion Hudson Yards Opens + What Do Borough Presidents Do?

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Local News

  • Of the 895 spots in Stuyvesant High School’s freshman class, only 7 were offered to black students. Other Specialized High Schools did not fare much better. African-Americans represent over 1/4 of the City’s population.
  • The over 10,000 nurses at the New York-Presbyterian, Montefiore, and Mount Sinai hospital systems who had threatened to go on strike are now putting the plan on hold. NYSNA said after six months of negotiations, progress has been made toward a possible settlement with management. However, the NYC-DSA’s Labor Branch will be holding a solidarity kick-off party and strike fundraiser with several NYSNA organizers on April 1 in case a strike proves necessary.
  • Hudson Yards, the biggest private real estate development in US history, opened in New York City. The developer company Related, which received billions of dollars in subsidies, is now phasing out union jobs and trying to turn into an open shop. Meanwhile, the “Vessel” at Hudson Yards is becoming a loathed landmark at the site.
  • In an embarrassing display, Cuomo attacked “activists,” “socialists,” and politicians who wear earrings and have tattoos for the collapse of the Amazon HQ2 deal.
  • Assembly Members Marcos Crespo (D-Hunts Point) and Victor Pichardo (D-Morris Heights) wrote an op-ed about the legislation they’ve planned to protect immigrants in New York.
  • Kickstarter’s Brooklyn staff is seeking to form a union with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), one of the most significant tech unionization efforts to date.
  • The state legislature voted to expand the City’s speed camera program to 750 school zones in the City, a significant increase.
  • An employee at Amazon’s Staten Island distribution facility was fired after trying to unionize his colleagues, and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed a federal complaint on his behalf.
  • Comptroller Scott Stringer is seeking to block a “needlessly expensive” infusion of money into the City’s ferry system. De Blasio’s ferry program has previously come under scrutiny for being a wasteful subsidy that serves few New Yorkers.
  • Even as other prominent national progressive figures publicly abstain from participating, Mayor de Blasio will speak at this week’s AIPAC Conference alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Pence, and others.


  • Council Member Ritchie Torres (District 15, Belmont) is considering a primary challenge to Rep. José Serrano (NY-15) in 2020. During his council term, Torres has become associated with the progressive end of NYC politics while still maintaining a relationship with the reactionary Bronx Democratic machine, and was two years old when Serrano was first elected.
  • Former State Senate candidate Ross Barkan wrote an op-ed calling for leftist candidates to primary corporate Assembly Democrats, who now represent the largest obstacle to progressive reforms since IDC has been defeated.
  • Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC endorsed Tiffany Cabán for Queens DA, who has been accruing a number of grassroots progressive endorsements including NYC-DSA. 32BJ SEIU, one of the largest unions in NYC, endorsed Melinda Katz, who is solidifying herself as the establishment pick.
  • As many as six members of Chicago DSA may be elected to the Chicago City Council on April 2.

In-Depth: What Do Borough Presidents Do?

One of the quirks of New York City politics is the existence of Borough Presidents. No other jurisdiction in the United States has offices similar to those of the Borough Presidents, and, despite being one of the few borough-wide positions in the City, it is often unclear to voters what their powers even are. So where did Borough Presidents come from, and what do they do?


When the modern New York City was consolidated in 1898, the City created the offices of the Borough Presidents in order to assuage concerns that boroughs would become irrelevant in a more centralized government.

From 1901 to 1990, Borough Presidents served on the Board of Estimate, a powerful governing body that had significant authority in budget, land use, contracting, and other areas. However, in 1989 the United States Supreme Court ruled the Board of Estimate unconstitutional, leading to a massive City Charter revision. In many ways, the offices of the Borough Presidents and their powers were the impetus for the 1989 overhaul of the City Charter. Each Borough President had one vote on the Board of Estimate (citywide elected officials each had two), however, some boroughs were more represented than others due to significant differences in borough population (the population of Brooklyn was six times that of Staten Island).

Notably, the Supreme Court only ruled the Board of Estimate’s voting structure unconstitutional, not the Board itself, so the 1989 Charter Revision Commission could have simply modified the Board to include weighted voting. Reasons to keep the Board in place included its significant share of power within City government, its stability, and its status as the main place where a borough voice could be heard. Ultimately, however, the 1989 Commission chose to eliminate the Board, replacing it with the current City Council.

The 1989 Commission chose not to eliminate the offices of the Borough Presidents entirely due to the historical importance of boroughs, significant public testimony urging a meaningful borough role, and concerns that without a role for borough voice the Commission’s proposals would be voted down. At the same time, the Commission did not want to give Borough Presidents a true legislative role because the Commission believed this would dilute the City Council’s power and would not create opportunities for minority politicians (one of its primary goals). The Commission was also reluctant to give Borough Presidents significant executive power, as the Commission could not identify issues sufficiently local in scale to reserve for Borough President control rather than mayoral control. Only a few years after the 1989 revisions, the Borough Presidents faced calls for the abolishment of their offices and questions regarding their purpose.

Current Powers

Elimination of the Board of Estimate meant that Borough Presidents’ powers were significantly diminished after 1989. Borough Presidents retained control over some intra-borough affairs, with a number of historical powers remaining in some form (e.g., maintain a topographical bureau) and others added (e.g., monitor service delivery in the borough, introduce legislation, train and provide technical assistance to community boards).

Currently, Borough Presidents’ limited powers include making non-binding recommendations for capital projects, having legislation introduced in the Council, appointing community board members, appointing one member each to the City Planning Commission, and allocating funds within their respective boroughs (five percent of the City’s capital budget is distributed to Borough Presidents), among others. Borough Presidents are also empowered to hold public hearings. For example, Borough Presidents often hold hearings on land use topics and various other issues.

Borough Presidents are required to chair their borough board, which comprises the Borough President, Council Members from the borough, and community board chairs. Borough boards hold regular public hearings and issue reports to the Council, Mayor, and City Planning Commission on borough programs and capital projects, and have binding approval power in the leasing or selling of City property within the respective borough. Borough Presidents also make recommendations regarding their borough to the Mayor and other officials, maintain a planning office for the borough, monitor service delivery in the borough, propose a borough capital budget, and recommend executive budget modifications to the Mayor and Council.

Perhaps the biggest role of Borough Presidents is in the City’s land use process. In addition to appointing community board members and a member each to the City Planning Commission, they have authority to issue non-binding recommendations concerning the approval, disapproval, or modification of land use applications under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). And as chairs of borough boards, they make ULURP recommendations when the application affects multiple community districts within the respective borough.

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