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The Community Agreement

How does Garden City's government work?

The Village of Garden City's government is based on the Community Agreement of 1919.

What is the Community Agreement?

The Community Agreement originated in 1919, when the Village of Garden City was incorporated. At that time, there were three developed areas in Garden City – “Old Garden City," now known as the Central Section, with 50 homes; “Garden City East" now known as the Eastern Section with 160 homes; and “Garden City Estates," with 160 homes, now known as the Estates Section. The current Western Section was mostly undeveloped land within Estates until 1931 when it formally became its own geographic section of the Village. Until 1919 two development companies owned and managed the unsold land within each of the three geographic sections. The Garden City Company controlled Old Garden City and Garden City East, while the Estates Corporation owned the Estates Section. The developers owned the roads, provided fire and police protection and controlled their own zoning by determining the size and allowable usage of each plot of land they sold to individual property owners. For practical reasons individual property owners in all of the sections, along with the developers, decided to unite as an incorporated village with one government to provide uniform municipal services and zoning codes. A debate ensued on how to prevent any one section from dominating the Board of Trustees or the School Board. In 1919, as today, the number of property owners, population density and physical size of each area are not equal. To resolve the problem, the Community Agreement was adopted as a compromise solution that has been honored ever since.

The Community Agreement Party

Under the Community Agreement each of four sections of the Village has two seats on the Village Board of Trustees, one of which is the Mayor's. All eight Board members, including the Mayor, are elected to serve two year terms. At the conclusion of the Mayor's term, since the Mayor is one of two BOT members from any given section, the Mayor 's seat rotates to another section of the Village. Each section is responsible for providing its own candidates for the annual General Village Election, held in March and governed by NYS Election Law. The candidates from the four sections are presented as The Community Agreement Party slate.

The Unified Procedure

To form the Community Agreement Party slate, each section has a nominating committee that presents candidates for the March General Election. Under the Unified Procedure, residents of the respective sections meet in January, at which point additional nominees may be presented by persons eligible to vote in general elections who reside within that section. Should that occur, a local run-off or primary election is held two weeks later. Only persons residing within that section may vote in the 'runoff' election. The winner becomes that section's entry on the Community Agreement Party's ballot for the March General Election.

The Property Owners’ Associations

Under the Community Agreement, each section has its own Properly Owners' Association. The POAs adhere to the Unified Procedure. The individual POAs have their own by-laws to form their nominating committees, and all are responsible for holding the local run-off elections when they are necessary. The POAs have two critical functions, the first of which is to provide the mechanism for nominating candidates for election to the Village BOT and the School Board. The nominating committees traditionally seek people for Mayor and Trustee who have experience working within the POAs to ensure that our Village officials bring to the table an overall understanding of the Village infrastructure, the various commissions and the Village Code, as well as the duties and responsibilities of a mayor and trustee vested by NYS. The second is to serve as a civic association, so that residents can bring concerns to their POA as well as the BOT. To promote communication and cooperation among all four POAs, the section presidents and vice presidents form the Joint Conference Committee to discuss issues that affect the Village as a whole, and to create village-wide awareness of issues that are unique to any given section.

Why Keep the Community Agreement?

Since 1919, the Community Agreement has provided an orderly system for nominating candidates for the General Village Election. It has ensured that two elected officials from each section of the Village will serve on the BOT at all times. Under NYS law, anyone may present a petition to the Village Clerk to be included on the General Election ballot. However, the practice has been discouraged because it could tip the balance of representation on the BOT, since the top vote-getters win the open trustee seats, no matter what section of the Village they reside in. The Community Agreement prevents domination by one section over the others; avoids partisan politics and control of our Home Rule by a major political party; produces elected officials who have demonstrated a thorough knowledge of Village affairs, and along with the POAs, provides an open form of government rooted in cooperation, compromise and respect among residents from all four sections of the Village