Brewer, Vacca, Kallos Congratulate City Hall on FOIL Tracker Announced at City Council Hearing and Urge Next Steps


New York, NY – Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Members Ben Kallos and James Vacca congratulated City Hall on a brand new FOIL Tracker (link) announced at a joint hearing of the City Council Committees on Technology and Governmental Operations. The Borough President and Council Members urged next steps in line with Counsel Maya Wiley's stated commitment to a Citywide FOIL Tracker, including passage of Intro 328,  which would create a centralized, searchable website to track and process FOIL requests. The legislation seeks to address delays and inconsistencies in New York City’s FOIL compliance. Advocates, including good government groups Sunlight Foundation, Reinvent Albany, League of Women Voters and Participatory Politics Foundation, offered testimony in support of the legislation.


“I am a strong supporter of open access to government data – and in that spirit, the creation of a centralized OpenFOIL portal will increase the transparency and response rate of Freedom of Information Requests. It’s time for New York City to bring FOIL processing into the digital age, and I proud to co-sponsor this needed legislation,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“With City Hall's just-announced FOIL Tracker, we are one step closer to an efficient and transparent FOIL process. When 10% of FOIL requests are simply slipping through the cracks, we have a problem. When New Yorkers can’t access the most commonly-requested documents through a simple search, we have a problem. I urge this administration to continue with a Citywide roll-out, which they have expressed support for, and to do so through legislation that would codify needed FOIL transparency initiatives. I applaud the Mayor  for commitment to open FOIL principles and his fast action," said Council Member Ben Kallos.


“The Freedom of Information Law is all about transparency and public access, and yet very little about FOIL requests is out in the open and available to New Yorkers. It makes no sense that FOIL requests, which are meant to shine a light on the government, are sucked into a black hole once they are filed. They are the main tool citizens can use to acquire information from their government, and it is only logical that the public should be able to track their progress and search previous requests. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for creating the Citywide FOIL Tracker, and I look forward to further expanding FOIL transparency with Intro. 328,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Committee on Technology.


A 2013 report by then-Public Advocate, now-Mayor Bill de Blasio, “Breaking Through Bureaucracy,” identified that 10% of New York City FOIL requests are ignored, 40% of City agencies do not include FOIL information on their websites, and response time varies dramatically between agencies. City Limit's “How de Blasio Can Fix FOIL" suggested fixes based on FOIL requests during the first month of the new administration’s transition. Transparent, searchable FOIL websites exist for the cities of Chicago and Oakland and for the Port Authority of NY and NJ.
The city of Oakland currently uses the RecordTrac free and open source licensed software to manage its OpenFOIL portal, which was built for them by Code for America and currently supported by PostCode.  The City of New York could use the code for RecordTrac which is freely available and posted on GitHub and have it set up within hours.  Because the software code is licensed free and open source any modifications or upgrades made to the software by Oakland or New York City would be available to the other city, as well as every other municipality in the nation.