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New York City has been a metropolitan municipality with a mayor-council form of government since its consolidation in 1898. The government of New York is more centralized than that of most other U.S. cities. In New York City, the central government is responsible for public education, correctional institutions, libraries, public safety, recreational facilities, sanitation, water supply, and welfare services. The mayor and councilors are elected to four-year terms. The New York City Council is a unicameral body consisting of 51 Council members whose districts are defined by geographic population boundaries. Each term for the mayor and councilors lasts four years and has a three consecutive-term limit but can resume after a four-year break. The codified local laws are contained in the New York City Administrative Code in 29 titles, the regulations promulgated by city agencies are compiled in the Rules of the City of New York in 71 titles, and The City Record is the official journal published each weekday (except legal holidays).

A wide white building in a colonial style with a cupola in the center. New York City Hall is the oldest City Hall in the United States that still houses its original governmental functions. Each borough is coextensive with a judicial district of the New York Supreme Court and hosts other state and city courts. Manhattan also hosts the Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, while Brooklyn hosts the Appellate Division, Second Department.

Uniquely among major American cities, New York is divided between, and is host to the main branches of, two different United States District Courts: the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, whose main courthouse is on Foley Square near City Hall in Manhattan and whose jurisdiction includes Manhattan and the Bronx, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, whose main courthouse is in Brooklyn and whose jurisdiction includes Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and United States Court of International Trade are also based in New York, also on Foley Square in Manhattan.