The Case for OpenFOIL

The proposed legislation for an online freedom of information law (“FOIL”) request tracking portal would greatly benefit New Yorkers. This portal would centralize the process of requesting records from City agencies for the public, and vastly streamline every step of the process of responding to FOIL requests for records access officers. It would catalyze the City open data initiative by allowing for analytics-based publication of open data sets. It would simply improve public access to information, and do so while saving taxpayers over $13 million per year.

What the FOIL Portal Does

The portal offers numerous benefits to the public and agencies:

  • All requests and responses are archived and publicly searchable. Members of the public will see if their question has already been asked and answered. Records access officers will avoid repeat requests for the same information.
  • Records officers will upload responsive documents to the portal and “attach” them to the applicable request, where records access officers will review them.
  • Redacting records will also be done within the portal itself, without the need to print, manually redact, and re-scan thousands of sheets of paper.
  • FOIL responses will no longer be mailed on CDs if they’re too large to email. Records officers will upload responses to the portal for public download.

Reason for Support

New York City will save at least $13 million annually by implementing an open and automated FOIL process through the OpenFOIL portal. This savings will come from improved efficiency in the FOIL response process at City agencies. There are roughly 50,000 FOIL requests filed in the City, and at an average cost of $400 per request, the FOIL regime costs $20 million annually. Automated FOIL processing technology like that included in the Open FOIL portal has reduced the cost of FOIL responses by between 66% and 90% elsewhere, which represents savings of at least $13 million.

Groups in Support

  • 596 Acres
  • Advocates for Children
  • Alliance for Quality Education of NY
  • BetaNYC
  • Brennan Center for Justice/ NYU LAW
  • Citizen Action
  • Citizens Union
  • Common Cause
  • Community Service Society
  • Community Voices Heard
  • Good Jobs New York
  • League of Women Voters NYC
  • Legal Aid Society
  • NRDC
  • NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
  • NY Civic Engagement Table
  • NY Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • Make the Road by Walking
  • OpenPlans
  • Participatory Politics Foundation
  • Pratt Center for Community Development
  • Reinvent Albany
  • Riverkeeper
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • VOCAL – NY
  • Transportation Alternatives
  • Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  • West Harlem Environmental Action
  • Women’s City Club of New York