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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) enables effective oversight of government, prevents waste and corruption, and bolsters public confidence in institutions. This report represents New York City’s first ever comprehensive look at government responsiveness to public information requests. It evaluates the speed of response, whether responses were delivered at all, and the ease with which FOIL requests can be filed at 38 City agencies. The result is a FOIL Report Card that grades agencies and provides a benchmark for improvement. The Report Card demonstrates deep inconsistency across City agencies ―with some meeting most of their legal obligations, while other agencies neglect them completely. The 18 agencies that received more than 100 FOIL requests were awarded the following grades for their performance:

Grade

A

Grade

B

Grade

C

1

Speed requests for the most commonly-sought information and reduce FOIL officer workload by posting minutes. Public Advocate de Blasio has put forward the following recommendations: 1. the Public Advocate identified several key areas where agencies were neglecting their responsibilities under the law:  The process for submitting FOIL requests to City agencies and tracking their status is inconsistent and can be extremely challenging for the public to navigate. the lack of firm response impedes the appeal process and legal action. 40% of City agencies lack information on their website about where to direct FOIL requests. To help improve the City’s responsiveness to information requests. which is available at no cost through the New York State Committee on Open Government.  When City agencies responded to FOIL requests. Strengthen the City’s oversight of FOIL responsiveness by adopting legislation to require monthly reporting to the City Council and Public Advocate on the status of all FOIL requests. more than 1. Record Access Officers at City agencies should also receive annual training on FOIL compliance. as well as annual reporting to the public in the Mayor’s Management Report. While these non-responses represent de facto denials. 2 . Neither 311 nor the City’s Green Book provide this information.  For the three months of FOIL data analyzed.000 individuals or groups had not received an approval or denial determination after more than six months of waiting – that represents one-in-ten requests that were either ignored or fell through the cracks. 2.000 FOIL requests used as a basis for the Report Card. public schedules and license data online for easy access.Grade D Grade F In analyzing the 10. response times varied dramatically by agency.

New York City should follow the federal government’s lead and transition to a single online portal for processing FOIL requests to City agencies. This would modernize FOIL disclosure practices and encourage agencies to adapt to changes in technology. 3 . Assess fines for non-compliance. a fee should be assessed to the agency for each day of non-compliance. 5.3. Pass legislation mandating that all City agencies must proactively publish commonly-requested records online. In instances where a court finds that an agency exhibited a ‘pattern and practice’ of violating FOIL or de facto denials resulting from excessive delays. 6. Ensure greater accountability through semi-annual reviews of each agency’s FOIL compliance by the Commission on Public Information & Communication (COPIC). 4. Streamline the process of filing FOIL requests and getting updates on their status . 311 and the City’s Green Book should maintain contact information for all record access officers at City agencies.

2 This includes any record of “any information kept. we are instead seeing persistent impediments to a more transparent government.1 Specifically. With the evolution in information technology and the digitization of many government agency records. These principals are supported and protected by the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). with or for any agency or the State Legislature. but major impediments remain. enacted in 1974.”3 While there are some exceptions to the information that can be provided. produced or reproduced by. Public Officers Law Article 6 § 84 “Agencies” is defined as all units of state and local government in New York State. Clear guidelines and required disclosure practices not only ensure accountability of government entities. condense. many others violate the spirit—and letter— of the law by failing to provide basic information within a timely period. The Office of the Public Advocate is tasked according to the City Charter with ensuring the responsiveness of City agencies to requests for information and data. 3 Public Officers Law Article 6 § 86 (4) 1 2 4 . the public should expect fewer obstacles to requests for information. but does not include the State legislatur e or the courts. Complementing these efforts. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is also the Chair of the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC). In an era when the public should be expecting greater and easier disclosure. It was passed with the understanding that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public. While some City agencies are making significant strides in proactive disclosure by providing information online before it is requested. in any physical form whatsoever.INTRODUCTION Transparency and responsiveness in government decisions and policies engenders trust in our democratic process. FOIL. held. filed. and disperse vast data and resources. it provides rights of access to all records that document the process and policies of government agencies. affirms every citizen’s right to access a wide variety of information from state and city agencies. whose mission is to ensure greater accountability and transparency in City government. This report addresses two major challenges: speed of response time and ease of filing a Freedom of Information request. every government agency in New York State must comply with specific legal requirements relating to response time and extent of disclosure as stipulated under FOIL. it also supports the engagement of the public and promotes the voice of the citizenry. It is important to note that FOIL was written in a different era – one with significant limitations in the role of technology to gather. there has been considerable progress in terms of opening information up to the public. Since the creation of COPIC in 1989.

whose responsibilities include ensuring appropriate agency responses to requests for records.6 This list must be updated annually and must be posted to the agency’s website. making records available upon request or denying requests for records in writing. What is available for public access under FOIL:  Under State and municipal law. maintaining an up to date subject matter list.7 Timeframe for responding to requests:  Government agencies must provide access to records. officially known as “Public Officers Law Article 6.THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR CITY INFORMATION REQUESTS The Freedom of Information Law. 4 5 5 . If an acknowledgement of receipt is given. Section 84 -90. §86(4). see New York Public Officer’s Law Article 6 §87(2) New York Public Officer’s Law. Under the Public Officers Law.  If the agency has a reasonable circumstances which would bar it from making a determination within twenty days.”5  Government agencies must provide the name. §87(3). What agencies must do to ensure they are equipped to respond to FOIL requests:  Every City agency must designate a Public Access Officer.  FOIL information on the websites of State agencies must list the name and contact information of the Public Access Officer from whom records shall be available. then the agency must include an approximate date at which the record will be made available within twenty business days.  Government agencies must also maintain a reasonably current list by subject matter of all records in the possession of the agency.  A person who is denied access to a record may within 30 days appeal in writing to the head of the agency from which they requested the information. filed.4 A “record” includes: “any information kept. Article 6. Article 6.” stipulates the responsibilities of the State legislature and any government agency within New York State. 6 New York Public Officer’s Law. 8 For a list of exampt records. held. denial of access.  Each government agency must also permit and facilitate the copying of records. produced or reproduced by. each agency is required to make available for inspection and copying all “records” except those that are specifically exempt from disclosure by State or Federal statute. title and salary of every officer and employee of that agency. New York City agencies must adhere to a common set of guiding principles and responsibilities. or an acknowledgment of receipt within five business days of receiving a FOIL request. public office address. the must provide a written explanation of the factors and a specific date by which it will respond. with or for an agency. Article 6. 7 New York Public Officer’s Law. §87.

NYPD indicated that the department did not have all the requested information for January-March 2011 and therefore instead provided data on FOIL requests received May 1-July 31.March 31) and the status or outcome of each request. and this study does not attempt to extrapolate long-term conclusions regarding an agency’s FOIL responsiveness. the Public Advocate sent requests to 35 mayoral agencies.AN ANALYSIS OF NEW YORK CITY INFORMATION REQUESTS In October 2011. Data from the Public Advocate’s office was also submitted as part of this citywide review. Others required more time. 8 New York Public Officer’s Law. only if the request is open or closed. Thirty of the 38 agencies provided the requested FOIL data within 20 days. asking for a list of all FOIL requests that the agencies received during the first quarter of 2011 (January 1 . The New York Police Department (NYPD) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – the two agencies with the highest number of reported FOIL requests – were notable exceptions. However. This report provides a snapshot of FOIL requests to City agencies over a three-month period. both failed to provide the requested information in full. City agencies were able to provide a spreadsheet detailing FOIL requests that were received and the status or outcome of these requests. 6 . the data from this three-month period makes clear that a huge variation in both volume and response time exists across agencies. all submitted FOIL data – including the incomplete data from NYPD and DEP – was used in this report. DEP provided a full list of FOIL requests received during the first quarter of 2011 but indicated that the agency does not track whether or not a request was denied. 2011. citywide review. Requests to agencies fluctuate over time. In order to conduct a comprehensive. as well as the New York City Department of Education and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Article 6 §89. City Agencies Included in the Public Advocate’s Review of FOIL Responsiveness Administration for Children’s Services Commission on Human Rights Department for the Aging Department of Buildings Department of City Planning Department of Citywide Administrative Services Department of Consumer Affairs Department of Correction Department of Cultural Affairs Department of Design & Construction Department of Education Department of Environmental Protection Department of Finance Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Department of Homeless Services Department of Housing Preservation & Development Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Department of Investigation Department of Parks & Recreation Department of Probation Department of Records & Information Services Department of Sanitation Department of Small Business Services Department of Transportation Department of Youth & Community Development Fire Department Housing Authority Human Resources Administration Landmarks Preservation Commission Law Department Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings Office of Chief Medical Examiner Office of Emergency Management Office of Labor Relations Office of Management & Budget Office of the Public Advocate Police Department Taxi and Limousine Commission In most cases.

The City’s Green Book also omits this important information. (4) the option to submit a request online or via email.KEY FINDINGS  The process for submitting FOIL requests to City agencies and tracking their status is inconsistent and can be extremely challenging for the public to navigate. B. Specific breakdowns by City agency are included in the appendixes at the end of the report.  For the three months of FOIL data analyzed. 9 7 . those that scored below earned D or F grades. Letter grades are derived from three important indicators of FOIL performance: (1) Response Time (the percent of FOIL requests taking 60+ days for determination).000 requests had not received a “yes o r no" determination – that’s one-in-ten requests where a City agency either ignores or loses the request. and (5) details about the notification and appeals process. o The majority of FOIL requests to City agencies (60%) receive a response within 30 days. the C average was pegged to 13% of responses taking 60+ days for determination. “Ease in Filing” accounts for 20%. (2) Unanswered Requests (the percent of FOIL requests that received no response). Agencies that scored at or above this marker earned A. roughly 1. (3) a sample FOIL request or form. The overall letter grade awarded to agencies is a weighted average of the three indicators.  When Agencies responded to FOIL requests. response times varied dramatically by agency. For “Response Time”. 11% received an answer in 30-59 days and 17% took more than 60 days. If an agency has any of these measures in place. “Ease in Filing”. o The Department of Design and Construction had the highest ratio of unanswered FOIL requests in the three month period – 40% of their 82 requests had not received a determination. All letter grades are based on the standard A-F grading system. or C grades. The third indicator. “Response Time” and “Unanswered” are each worth 40% of the total grade. The overall score was then translated into a grade from A-F. 2011.9 Letter grades were assigned for each indicator in relation to the average score across all 18 agencies. For “Unanswered Requests”. The Department of Corrections and NYPD also reported more than 30% of their FOIL requests unanswered. the C average was pegged to 10% of FOIL requests going unanswered. o 311 is not equipped to provide information on agencies’ Record Access Officers even though many agencies route all their call traffic from the general public through 311. and (3) Ease of Filing (an assessment of the public information available to assist individuals when filing FOIL requests). RATINGS BY CITY AGENCY: The 18 City agencies that received more than 100 FOIL requests were awarded letter grades for their FOIL performance. scored agencies based on the amount of information provided to assist individuals when filing FOIL requests: (1) readily accessible contact information. o NYPD had the largest number of unanswered FOIL requests from the provided 3-month period – 577 unanswered requests as of November 14. they scored one point. o 40% of City agencies (15 of 38) lack a page or contact info on their website about where to direct FOIL requests. (2) detailed instructions on how to submit a FOIL request.

Agencies with 100-199 Total Requests: Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: B A A B Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: C Response Time: A Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: B- Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: B 8 .

Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: F B Response Time: C+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: F Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: C D D Response Time: C Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: F Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: F 9 .

Response Time: F Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: C Quantity of Requests: Low Ease of Filing: C D A A Agencies with 200-999 Total Requests: Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: B Response Time: B Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: A 10 .

Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: D B B Response Time: A+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: C+ Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: C Response Time: D Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: B+ Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: B C 11 .

Response Time: C - Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: D Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: A C Response Time: D+ Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: D Quantity of Requests: Medium D F Ease of Filing: B Response Time: F Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: F Quantity of Requests: Medium Ease of Filing: C 12 .

000 Total Requests: Response Time: AOverall grade: Unanswered Requests: A+ Quantity of Requests: High Ease of Filing: C A C F Response Time: F Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: BQuantity of Requests: High Ease of Filing: B Response Time: F Overall grade: Unanswered Requests: F Quantity of Requests: High Ease of Filing: C 13 .Agencies with more than 1.

only 22% included in formation on the outcome of cases. Eight agencies received fewer than ten FOIL requests. twenty agencies received fewer than 100 FOIL requests over the same three-month period. More than half – 5.970 FOIL requests. 14 . City agencies received a total of 9.119 requests where the outcome was indicated. 88% were granted in full or in part. Number of FOIL Requests Received by City Agencies during a Three-Month Period 25-99 Requests (9 agencies) 100-499 Requests (13 agencies) Less than 25 Requests (11 agencies) 500+ Requests (5 agencies) Outcomes of FOIL Requests Received: Of the total FOIL requests reported to the Public Advocate’s office.883 requests). Of the 2.AGGREGATE ANALYSIS Quantity of FOIL Requests: During the three months analyzed. On the other end of the spectrum. and the Department of Environmental Protection (2. and 12% were denied.680 – of these requests were made to only three agencies: the Department of Transportation (1.655 requests) the New York Police Department (1.142 requests).

Agency Less than 100 Requests Department for the Aging Department of Youth and Community Development Department of Cultural Affairs Department of Records & Information Services Office of Management & Budget Office of Labor Relations Department of Probation Office of the Public Advocate Landmarks Preservation Commission Office of Emergency Management Administration for Children’s Services Commission on Human Rights Department of Small Business Services Law Department Office of Chief Medical Examiner Department of Homeless Services Department of Investigation Human Resources Administration Department of Sanitation Department of Design & Construction More than 100 Requests Department of City Planning Department of Parks & Recreation Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Department of Correction Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings Taxi and Limousine Commission Department of Education Department of Finance Department of Citywide Administrative Services Fire Department Department of Buildings Department of Consumer Affairs Department of Housing Preservation & Development Housing Authority Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Department of Transportation Police Department Department of Environmental Protection 15 Number of FOIL Requests during 3 month period 3 3 5 5 5 5 9 9 12 15 15 25 25 26 33 38 42 48 73 82 102 104 113 118 134 175 194 210 222 224 289 292 459 504 672 1.655 1.883 2.142 .

The Department of Education. on the other hand. There is considerable range across agencies in the amount of elapsed time between when a request is submitted and a determination is made. when the data was requested by the Public Advocate’s office in Fall 2011. approximately 12% took 30-59 days for determination and 17% took 60 days or more.655) – provided a response within 30 days in 86% of all FOIL requests. Responsiveness to FOIL Requests 30-59 days ( 11% ) Less than 30 days ( 60% ) 60+ days ( 17% ) No response ( 11% ) 16 . The majority of agencies with the best turnaround time are those with the fewest number of requests. Of the remaining requests. A full 11% were outstanding – with no determination rendered – after more than six months. the Department of Transportation – with the third highest number of requests (1. However. yet was only able to provide determination within 30 days to 7% of requests.Turn-around Time on FOIL Requests: Approximately 60% of all FOIL requests received a determination in less than 30 days. received 194 FOIL requests.

22 Other.16 Housing. By far.Non-determination: Perhaps the most concerning indicator of agency non-compliance is the rate of “non-determination. failure to provide an indication of “yes” or “no” six months after receiving a request undermines the spirit of the Freedom of Information Law. 30 FDNY.” it becomes difficult for a requestor to challenge an agency’s delay as they must wait for determination in order to make an appeal. 25 Parks. 577 Buildings. Number of Outstanding FOIL Requests by Agency DEP. Such delays are unacceptable and represent de-facto denials. These agencies have non-determination rates of over 30%. and the Department of Design and Construction. if a case is classified as “pending. 33 Finance. the Department of Correction had 118 requests and nondetermination in 38. Further. 149 Corrections. and the Department of Design and Construction had 82 requests and non-determination in 33. the Department of Corrections. the agencies with the highest rates of non-determination are the NYPD. 29 Police Dept Dept of Correction Dept of Finance Dept of Buildings Dept of Education Other Dept of Environmental Protection Dept of Design & Construction Fire Dept Dept of Parks & Recreation Dept of Housing Preservation & Development The NYPD had1.” One out of every ten FOIL requests had not received even a “yes” or “no” response from agencies six months after the initial request. 23 Education.883 requests and non-determination in 577. 38 DDC. 10 17 . though there is a wide variation in the total number of requests per agency complicating cross-agency comparisons. 30 NYPD.10 While the reasons for non-determination are myriad.

In these circumstances. which is housed in the Department of State.16 City and State law does not require regular reporting on the status of FOIL requests to the general public.CURRENT OVERSIGHT OF INFORMATION REQUESTS Although some government agencies such as the NYPD have been described as fostering a “pattern and practice” of violating the time requirements of FOIL requests. but it has been underutilized and unstaffed for much of the last decade due to budgetary constraints. FOIL clearly stipulates the responsibilities of agencies to respond to requests in a timely manner. the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) could feasibly provide a similar oversight function.pdf?ts=1323904956 12 http://www.gov/coog/foil_listing/findex.dos.14 While the Committee has no direct enforcement power. 16 Public Advocate Bill de Blasio recently reconvened the Commission on Public Information and Communication. City of New York Police Department: http://statecasefiles. a petitioner can challenge the denial of access under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. the Commission does not currently receive any funding from the City Budget.3031728 13 Specifically.amny.nyc.15 The Committee also provides resources and training to government and other interested groups. This lack of reporting limits effective oversight and makes it difficult to ascertain whether delayed responses are indicative of more systemic problems.ny.html 15 “Freedom of Information Law Advisory Opinions. it does seek to resolve controversies in which rights may be unclear and keeps an online archive of its Advisory opinions. oversees and advises state government. The Committee. such failure constitutes a denial. and news media on Freedom of Information.dos. At the City level.gov/transparency/copic 11 18 . Open Meetings. Online at http://www.gov/coog/index. To help provide oversight and guidance on these matters. the New York State Committee on Open Government was created.com/urbanite-1. 14 Committee on Open Government Website.12 When an agency fails to respond within the stipulated timeframe.html. there are currently few mechanisms aside from appeals and judicial remedy to force compliance when an agency violates this responsibility.com/documents/new-york/othercourts/2011-ny-slip-op-32857-u-0. See: http://pubadvocate.ny.812039/many-city-agencies-flout-law-by-withholding-public-info-from-press-1. and Personal Privacy Protection Laws. The Committee on Open Government is a strong advocate for improving access to public information through proactive disclosure – encouraging government agencies to “push” information out to the public. however. Online at http://www. the public.11 this report represents New York City’s first comprehensive look at government responsiveness to public information requests. an agency can be forced to comply through legal action13 – an option beyond the capacity of many petitioners. the federal government passed the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 that requires each agency to report to the Attorney General of the United States on See The New York Times v. therefore minimizing the need for formal FOIL requests. In an effort to push for greater compliance and reduce the backlog of requests.justia. however.

gov/LegislationDetail.gov/oip/foia_updates/Vol_XVII_4/page2.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem. 11 No. a requestor must identify where to send the FOIL request and understand the correct format for submission.nyc. and http://comptroller.gov/foil/index. As Amended By Public Law No. Despite court rulings that require government agencies to respond to FOIA requests within 20 days.nyc. sometimes demanding considerable personnel time in order to appropriately respond to a request.gov/html/dep/html/contact_us/index.S.the status of their FOIA requests. complex. Whereas the New York State Comptroller’s Office provides an online list of the contact information for the Public Access Officer for every state agency.19 Neither 311 nor the City’s Green Book.gov/html/nypd/html/legal_matters/dclm_doc_production_foil. the responsibilities of a FOIL officer are extensive. Law and Policy Journal (Vol. 21 These responsibilities are set forth in the Public Officer’s Law 6. Retrieved from: http://www. 1) Spring 2009. 17 19 . 3048.state. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio introduced legislation in 2010 (Intro 0227-2010) that would require New York City agencies to regularly report how many FOIL requests they have received.22 In short.” Retrieved from: http://www. creating new staffing demands. http://www.18 CHALLENGES & ADVANCES IN INFORMATION REQUESTS Persistent Obstacles: The process of correctly filing a FOIL request at New York City government agencies can be extremely challenging for the public.nyc. and the number of staff assigned to process FOIA requests. State and Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests face similar impediments to prompt and transparent information requests. as well as whether the requested information is exempt from disclosure. the number of outstanding requests.asp (Comptroller). median response times.osc. sometimes navigating complex search criteria. for example. currently have this information. With the rise of information technology.d09b345b0b361439455b831066a09da0/ (DOT).nyc. “The Freedom of Information Law and Its Impact on Government Agencies. and voluminous or complex searches can be burdensome for City agencies if they are not sufficiently staffed.” 20 See: FOIL Request Forms. it is virtually impossible to locate on the lion’s share of New York City agency websites. 110 Stat. § 552. Online at http://www.htm and “FOIL Policies. many agencies have witnessed an increase in the number of FOIL requests they receive.shtml (DEP). In a recent The Freedom of Information Act. 104-231. no such resource currently exists for New York City agencies. as well as the status of these requests. They must also exhaustively search the agency’s files for records.C.17 In a similar vein.htm 18 http://legistar. and sluggish character of FOIL requests is not limited to City agencies.justice. The disjoined. While some agencies make this information fairly accessible on their website.nyc. 22 Steven Goulden and Paul Herzfeld. many requests go unanswered for years and – in some cases – decades.” New York State Bar Association.us/foilofficers.20 A requestor must scroll through a seemingly endless series of links before locating information on submitting FOIL requests. http://www.shtml (NYPD).council. In order to file a request with a City agency. The responsibilities of FOIL officers at government agencies are complex. §89(3). 5 U.21 FOIL officers must make determinations of whether information requested constitutes a “record” under the meaning of the Public Officers Law. Government.ny.aspx?ID=662405&GUID=9FEC9C33-5127-48EE-BC967D86C660DB0C&Options=ID%7cText%7c&Search=227 19 “Freedom of Information (FOIL) Officers.

com/NYOG/ 27 http://www. friendly.24 CASE STUDY: CHICAGO Although this process will take several years to complete. The state has minutes. New York City approved a landmark piece of legislation to require City agencies to publish their quantitative data sets through an online portal.governor. The Request Log data and information 26 in March 2013.org/city/en/progs/foia. With the advances in information technology.nyc.gov/html/doitt/html/open/local_law_11_2012. the law has been amended and strengthened to ensure its continued relevancy. one-stop access to data from New direct communication with city agencies and better York State agencies. localities.for the first time .shtml 25 https://nycopendata. business-related issues. Sponsored by New York State Member of Assembly Kavanagh: http://open. and meeting responsive to public inquiries. 2011 aims to further advance these positive and can hold agencies accountable should trends by compelling government agencies to responses be delayed. and the federal 27 government. For more details. Chicago maintains an easily New York State has also made improvements accessible online hub for commonly requested in the use of technology to ensure state information. enabling the public and private sector to access large quantities of data which were previously available only through FOIL requests. visit provide all information of substantial public http://www. 2012) http://www.nysenate.” State legislation introduced in understand the process for filling FOIA requests. agencies and offices are more open and vehicles. Act in recent years. new efforts are underway to amend the language of the law in order to mandate more proactive disclosure of frequently requested information by publishing data and records on the internet.pdf See also: http://nyopengovernment.userresponse.NY.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/New-Transparency1. ensuring easier access to information.htm.ny.cityofchicago. including the date information was comprehensive state data transparency requested and the due date for an anticipated website that “provides .com/ 26 http://reinventalbany. it was disclosed that some Federal agencies had not yet fulfilled requests dating as far back as 1992. a handful of City agencies The City of Chicago is one of several cities that demonstrated early leadership by providing have made great strides to improve the datasets through the City’s Open Data 25 accessibility and use of the Freedom of Information website.28 Matthew Wald.23 Recent Progress: Since the adoption of FOIL more than 35 years ago. The city also maintains a FOIA Request proactively disclosed more routinely requested Log for each city agency. a since 2010.gov/press/03112013open-data 28 See Intro A5867 A-2011. In 2012.exposé of Federal FOIA requests. interest on their website. including requests on licensing.” The New York Times (January 28. includes a summary of every FOIA request made Governor Cuomo launched Open. “Slow Responses Cloud a Window into Washington.Gov.gov/legislation/bill/A5867a-2011 23 24 20 .socrata. This ensures that requestors have clear.

regulations. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. the Environmental Protection Agency. communicate directly with agencies. and the National Archives and Records Administration. elapsed time. the Department of the Treasury has implemented FOIAonline in limited capacity. Beyond simply streamlining the FOIA process.gov/foia/action/public/home/about 31 http://reinventalbany. Bureau of Fiscal Services.com/submissions/8236-openup-nyc 29 30 21 . the Merit Systems Protection Board. One estimate anticipates a cost-savings of approximately $40 million per year. As of December 10.32 The website called OpenUpNYC was unveiled at the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum. Federal Labor Relations Authority.gov/foia/action/public/home Participating agencies include: the Department of Commerce (except the US Patent and Trademark Office). Merit Systems Protection Board. National Archives and Records Administration.31 In 2012. a joint effort by the Environmental Protection Agency.30 but it has the potential to dramatically reduce the confusion. Department Of Commerce. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. and receive electronic records. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Mint. and improve transparency of FOIA requests. The Federal Labor Relations Authority. the Public Advocate’s office partnered with a team of developers from Code for America. and Department of the Treasury led to the creation of FOIAonline. and the U. Reboot. the initiative also has the potential to reduce processing costs when it is adopted by all federal agencies.S. Users may search for previously released records.29 This online tool enables the public to query and track the status of their requests.org/2012/10/feds-launch-open-freedom-of-information-site-wheres-new-york/ 32 http://pdfapplied. Recently.challengepost. serving the Departmental Offices. in part by utilizing new technologies to disclose information to the public. See the Office of the General Counsel: https://foiaonline.The Federal Government has also taken active steps to improve government transparency. FOIAonline Hub: https://foiaonline. The tool is in its initial phases and currently only applies to five agencies and offices.regulations. GovHub and Reinvent Albany to create a comparable prototype for New York City.

which is available at no cost through the New York State Committee on Open Government. Ensure greater accountability. New York City should also follow the federal government’s lead and transition to a single online portal for pro cessing FOIL requests to City agencies. Agencies must be encouraged to comply with both spirit and the letter of the law. 5. building on efforts underway at the Public Advocate’s office. As an interim measure. Public Advocate de Blasio has put forward the following recommendations: 1. New York City should adopt legislation based on Intro 227 requiring City agencies to provide monthly reports to the City Council and Public Advocate on the status of FOIL requests.  Non-compliant City agencies should be required to submit an improvement plan to COPIC on how it will improve its performance.aspx?ID=662405&GUID=9FEC9C33-5127-48EE-BC967D86C660DB0C&Options=ID%7cText%7c&Search=227 33 22 . Speed requests for the most commonly-sought information and reduce FOIL officer workload by posting minutes. This information should also be available through the City’s Green Book and 311.council. and have http://legistar. and the Mayor should take appropriate measures to ensure compliance. Strengthen the City’s oversight of FOIL responsiveness. 4. Agencies that do not should be sanctioned with a fine for each day of noncompliance. the Public Advocate will maintain a list of FOIL officers online.gov/LegislationDetail. 2. To ease the process of filing FOIL requests and getting updates on their status. Similar sanctions have been instituted in Washington State and Illinois. 3. This information should also be annually reported to the public in the Mayor’s Management Report. the City should provide a centralized list of all Agency record access officers with their contact information.33 This reporting is necessary to ensure that no FOIL requests are ignored – either accidentally or purposefully – and to shine a light on City agencies that repeatedly violate FOIL.  Non-compliant City agencies should be required to provide updates and frequent reports to COPIC about its FOIL process and requests. COPIC should submit such findings in writing to the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council. Assess fines for non-compliance. The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) should conduct semi-annual reviews of Agency FOIL compliance based on monthly reports submitted to the City Council and Public Advocate. Streamline the process of filing FOIL requests and getting updates on their status. If any agency accrues more than 25 FOIL requests that have remained unanswered for six months or more.RECOMMENDATIONS To help improve the City’s responsiveness to information requests.nyc. public schedules and license data online for easy access.  In the event that the agency fails to remedy its non-compliance after such informal efforts. All Record Access Officers at City agencies should receive annual training on FOIL compliance. this should automatically trigger a resolution in front of COPIC and the Commissioner of said agency shall submit testimony explaining its lapse in FOIL compliance.

Pass legislation mandating that all City agencies must proactively publish commonly-requested records online. City agencies have a new opportunity to proactively ‘push’ commonly requested information to the public by publishing information on their websites.encouraged greater agency compliance. This law would augment the success of Local Law 11 and encourage agencies to modernize their disclosure practices. 23 . 6. these fines would be assessed after a court finds an agency to be at fault – including in cases of excessive delays or a ‘pattern and practice’ of FOIL violations. The FOIL law was written in a different era – one with significant technological limitations that made proactive disclosure costly and difficult. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has proposed legislation that would require City agencies to proactively publish commonly requested material online. In New York City. With the development of network technology and accessible platforms for communication.

APPENDIXES FOIL Submission & Response Data by Agency: Agency # of requests received during three month period 15 25 3 289 102 222 292 118 5 82 194* 2142 210 672 38 459 # of requests with no determination as of Nov. 2011 1 0 0 25 8 0 0 38 0 33 16 149 30 0 2 22 # of requests taking <30 days for determination 13 24 3 248 71 220 291 52 4 38 71 1179 115 583 12 154 # of requests taking 30-59 days for determination 1 1 0 13 20 2 1 14 0 6 27 336 33 50 18 192 # of requests taking 60+ days for determination 0 0 0 3 3 0 0 14 1 5 69 478 32 39 6 91 Administration for Children’s Services Commission on Human Rights Department for the Aging Department of Buildings Department of City Planning Department of Citywide Administrative Services Department of Consumer Affairs Department of Correction Department of Cultural Affairs Department of Design & Construction Department of Education Department of Environmental Protection Department of Finance Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Department of Homeless Services Department of Housing Preservation & Development 24 .

Agency # of requests received during three month period 113 42 104 9 5 73 25 1655 3 224 504 48 12 26 134 33 15 5 5 # of requests with no determination as of Nov. 2011 1 0 23 0 0 1 0 12 0 30 147 2 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 25 # of requests taking <30 days for determination 111 33 48 5 3 41 23 1429 0 99 42 28 9 16 129 33 11 1 2 # of requests taking 30-59 days for determination 1 2 19 2 2 22 1 136 2 56 43 8 1 6 4 0 4 3 2 # of requests taking 60+ days for determination 0 7 14 2 0 9 1 78 1 39 256 10 2 4 0 0 0 0 1 Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Department of Investigation Department of Parks & Recreation Department of Probation Department of Records & Information Services Department of Sanitation Department of Small Business Services Department of Transportation Department of Youth and Community Development Fire Department Housing Authority Human Resources Administration Landmarks Preservation Commission Law Department Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings Office of Chief Medical Examiner Office of Emergency Management Office of Labor Relations Office of Management & Budget .

FOIL data was not available for the first quarter of 2011. Ease of Filing Data by Agency: Agency Contact info for Record Access Officer N N N Y Y Y Y Y N Y Instructions on how to File FOIL Request Y N N Y Y N Y Y N Y FOIL request form or sample letter N N N Y Y N Y N N N Online or email submission option35 N N N N Y Y Y N N Y Info on process for appeals N N N N N N N Y N N Administration for Children’s Services Commission on Human Rights Department for the Aging Department of Buildings Department of City Planning Department of Citywide Administrative Services Department of Consumer Affairs Department of Correction Department of Cultural Affairs Department of Design & Construction 34 According to the NYPD. 35 §89 3(b) of the Public Officers Law specifies that “All entities shall. 2011 0 577 0 # of requests taking <30 days for determination 7 699 174 # of requests taking 30-59 days for determination 1 78 1 # of requests taking 60+ days for determination 1 529 0 Office of the Public Advocate Police Department34 Taxi and Limousine Commission * 11 requests were reported as “withdrawn” and as such were not included in percent calculations. 26 . accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and shall respond to such requests by electronic mail”. provided such entity has reasonable means available. the NYPD chose to provide data for the second quarter of 2011.Agency # of requests received during three month period 9 1883 175 # of requests with no determination as of Nov. In its place.

Agency Contact info for Record Access Officer Y N Instructions on how to File FOIL Request Y Y FOIL request form or sample letter N Y Online or email submission option Y Y Info on process for appeals N Y Department of Education Department of Environmental Protection Department of Finance Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Department of Homeless Services Department of Housing Preservation & Development Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Department of Investigation Department of Parks & Recreation Department of Probation Department of Records & Information Services Department of Sanitation Department of Small Business Services Department of Transportation Department of Youth and Community Development Fire Department Housing Authority Human Resources Administration Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y Y N N Y N N Y N Y N N N N N Y Y Y N N N N N N Y Y N N N N N N Y N N N N N N N Y N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N Y Y N N N N 27 .

Agency Contact info for Record Access Officer Y Instructions on how to File FOIL Request Y FOIL request form or sample letter N Online or email submission option Y Info on process for appeals Y Landmarks Preservation Commission Law Department Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings Office of Chief Medical Examiner Office of Emergency Management Office of Labor Relations Office of Management & Budget Police Department Public Advocate Taxi and Limousine Commission Y N Y N N N Y Y Y N N Y N N N Y Y Y N N N N N N Y Y Y N N Y N N N N Y Y N N Y N N N N Y N 28 .

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