So, on to Wikipedia. This is specifically for New York.
Just about everywhere, your state is broken into counties. A county is defined as:
"The county is now a municipal corporation with geographical jurisdiction, homerule powers and fiscal capacity to provide a wide range of services to its residents. To some extent, counties have evolved into a form of 'regional' government that performs specified functions and which encompasses, but does not necessarily supersede, the jurisdiction of the cities, towns and villages within its borders."Now, breaking it down for the smaller bits:
"...a city is a highly autonomous incorporated area usually contained within a county. It provides almost all services to its residents and has the highest degree of home rule and taxing jurisdiction over its residents. The main difference between a city and a village is that cities are organized and governed according to their charters, which can differ widely among cities, while villages are subject to a uniform statewide Village Law. Also, villages are part of a town (or towns; some villages cross town borders), with residents who pay taxes to and receive services from the town. Cities are independent of towns. Some cities are completely surrounded by a town, typically of the same name. The city is not somehow subordinate to or a part of the town." There are miscellaneous exceptions to these rules all over New York.Getting specifically into towns:
"In New York State, a town is the major division of each county. Towns provide or arrange for most municipal services for residents of hamlets and other unincorporated areas, and selected services for residents of villages. All residents of New York who do not live in a city or on an Indian reservation live in a town. Unlike villages, towns cannot cross county borders, since they are part of each county. A town can contain zero, one or multiple villages.Now, we live in a village. Kind of interesting. Seems as if villages in NY state are similar to what towns are in other states.
Towns lack an executive branch of government. The town board exercises both executive and legislative functions. The town supervisor presides over the board, but does not possess veto or tie-breaking power. The judicial branch is known as Town Court or Justice Court, part of New York's Justice Court system."
"In New York State, a village is an incorporated area, most of which are within a single town. A village is a clearly defined municipality that provides the services closest to the residents, such as garbage collection, street and highway maintenance, street lighting and building codes. Some villages provide their own police and other optional services. Villages have less autonomy than cities. Those municipal services not provided by the village are provided by the town or towns containing the village.Finally, the little hamlet...
The legislature of a village is the board of trustees, composed of a mayor and (usually) four trustees. The mayor may vote in business before the board and may break a tie. The mayor generally does not possess veto power, unless provided by local law. The mayor is also the executive of the village. A village may also have a full-time village manager, who performs administrative duties which would normally fall upon the mayor. A village must have a municipal building or village hall. Villages may also have a village justice.To be incorporated as a village, a territory (i.e., given area) must have at least 500 inhabitants and be no more than 5 square miles (13 km²) in area (though there are exceptions to the area rule, such as if an entire town wishes to incorporate as a village)."
"In New York State, a hamlet is a populated area within a town that is not part of a village. The term "hamlet" is not defined under New York law (unlike cities, towns and villages), but is often used in the state's statutes to refer to well-known populated sections of towns that are not incorporated as villages.So there you go. Enjoy the education.
A hamlet has no legal status...and depends upon the town that contains it for municipal services and government. A hamlet could be described as the rural or suburban equivalent of a neighborhood in a city or village. The area of a hamlet may not be exactly defined and may simply be contained within the zip code of its post office, or may be defined by its school or fire district. Residents of a hamlet often identify themselves more closely with the hamlet than with the town. Some hamlets proximate to urban areas are sometimes continuous with their cities and appear to be neighborhoods, but they still are under the control of the town."