New York Unveils Freedom of Information Website

The new tool is a single point of access for citizens to request records from 59 state agencies and public authorities.

by Niagara Gazette / June 27, 2018
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(TNS) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a new website that he says will make it easier for the public and the press to access records from various state entities under New York's Freedom of Information Law.

The website, called Open Foil NY, offers a centralized online location to file FOIL requests with 59 state agencies and public authorities and was lauded by Cuomo as offering, for the first time, a uniform method to submit requests for government records through a single website.

In addition, Cuomo said the system will be the first of its kind in the nation that will provide an open-access records request "web form" that allows the requester to select multiple state agencies for a single records request.

In addition to providing a single point of access to request records from New York State agencies and authorities, Cuomo said Open FOIL NY offers many additional features and benefits including:

  • An open-access online form to request records from up to three agencies simultaneously, leading the nation in providing easy public access to multiple state agencies;
  • Direct access to a growing body of online information and resources, including agency reading rooms and Open Data NY.

In the next phase of Open FOIL NY, Cuomo said state agencies will be able to use software designed and built by the Office of Information Technology Services to process records requests more efficiently. The computer program will be made available to state executive agencies and authorities on a rolling basis over the next 12 months, streamlining FOIL request processing and saving state resources by:

  • Simplifying collection and review of agency records;
  • Facilitating FOIL request processing and
  • Enabling quick identification of frequently requested records that should be considered for proactive public release.

In addition, individual agency FOIL websites will soon refresh their content to provide a more user-friendly interface and ensure consistency across state agencies, according to Cuomo.

Open FOIL NY will also include an online tracking system, which is planned to launch in early 2019. The system will enable users to submit, track, and receive digital records relating to their FOIL requests by creating a My Open FOIL NY account through my.ny.gov.

Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government, called the new system "revolutionary" and said he believes it will "make life easier" for the public while streamlining the access to documents.

"I applaud the administration's efforts towards accomplishing those goals," Freeman said.

©2018 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.