What Does the NYC Mayor Do?

Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office

You, the voter, will hire the politicians this year who will run New York City beginning in 2022. Of all those new public officials, the mayor is the most important. What does the mayor do? For you? For your family? For the city?

The mayor is the face of New York City.

The mayor rallies when we celebrate and comforts when we mourn. 

The mayor is the city’s cheerleader.

He or she is our sales agent, our pitch person to governments in Albany and in Washington.

There are a lot of public events for this city’s mayorribbon cutting, welcoming celebrities and global leaders, giving press statements. New York’s mayor is New York’s chief diplomat.

But behind the lights, the mayor of New York City has a huge, complicated task, often described as the second toughest political job in the country, after the President.

The mayor of New York is the boss for the largest city enterprise in the country.

The mayor hires the police commissioner for the largest city police force in the country and the chancellor for the nation’s largest public school system with 1.1 million students. 

For the mayor’s 8.5 million clients (or residentsyou included), the mayor manages over 50 city departments with over 300,000 employees.

The mayor affects your quality of life.

The mayor must make certain the streets are clean and safe. The mayor must pick up your garbage and clean away the snow in a blizzard.

The mayor runs a huge health operation including 11 hospitals and dozens of care facilities. The mayor could help you get a vaccine. 

The mayor runs the 911 and 311 services to listen and respond to emergencies or complaints.

The mayor must balance the interests of businesses that want to grow, unions that want good jobs, landlords who rely on rental income, and tenants who are facing some of the highest rents in the world. 

The mayor is in charge of 30,000 acres of city parks.

A good mayor must prepare for and deal with emergencies—a hurricane, a blackout, another pandemic, or even another terrorist attack.

The mayor must take care of the needy in the city.

The mayor must house the homeless and protect those who live in public housing.

Rikers Island and city jails are the mayor’s responsibility.

The mayor runs the public assistance or welfare program in the city and oversees the food stamp program for nearly two million New Yorkers.

The mayor must determine the best way to spend your money.

The mayor along with the City Council will create a city budget of over $90 billion.

With the city suffering from a Covid recession, the new mayor will probably need to cut costs and increase taxes. In most cases, the mayor will have to convince the Governor and the state legislature to raise those taxes or offer other financial help for city residents.

The mayor will have to help the city grow enough to provide jobs and pay taxes.

How can one person do it?

Like any good leader, the mayor should hire the best people. That usually means experts, not political cronies or friends or relatives. The new mayor should welcome their analyses and proposals, even if they are at odds with the mayor’s own ideas or “the way things are always done.”

A good mayor sets goals and deadlines, and, after listening to different sides, makes a firm decision. A good mayor also does not blame his staff when things go wrong.

And a good mayor should be open to people and the media. Secrecy erodes public trust.

So, New Yorkers, choose your mayor well.