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  • Joey Aron

How to Obtain Public Records in New York State Using the Freedom of Information Law

Updated: May 1, 2023

Under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), people can request a

wide range of records held by state and local government agencies in New York, including State agencies, departments and authorities.

Some examples of the types of records that can be requested under FOIL include:

  •  Publicly available records, such as budgets, contracts, meeting minutes, and agendas.

  • Personnel records of government employees, such as disciplinary records, and performance evaluations.

  • Law enforcement records, such as arrest reports, crime reports, incident reports and other police investigation records.

  • Environmental records, such as air and water quality reports, environmental impact statements, and permits.

  • Health records, such as disease outbreak reports, health inspection reports, and health statistics.

  • Real estate records such as land use plans, property assessments, and building permits.

To submit a FOIL request, first determine which agency or authority may hold the

records you are seeking. You can search the names and roles of different agencies or authorities using the New Yok State website. For FOIL requests of New York City agencies, you can search for the proper agency by using the NYC OpenRecords portal.

Once you have determined what authority or agency to make the request from, search the

authority or agency’s website for the contact information for the agency's FOIL officer or records access officer. For New York City agencies, this information can also often be found on the NYC OpenRecords portal.

Draft a clear and specific request that describes the records you are seeking in as much detail as possible. Make sure to reasonably describe the request by including, such as the date range, the specific subject and any other identifying information that can help the agency locate the records.

You can submit your request to the authority or agency's FOIL officer by email, mail, or

in-person. If submitting by email, be sure to include "FOIL" in the subject line.

After submitting your request, the agency or authority has up to five business days to

acknowledge receipt of your request and provide an estimated date for a determination.

However, note that further follow up is often necessary to ensure that the agency or authority is properly processing the request.

Please keep in mind that individual agencies or authorities may have their own regulations and processes for submitting FOIL requests, thus it is essential to check their website or consult with their FOIL officer for guidance. Furthermore, some agencies may require payment of fees for processing FOIL requests, therefore it is important to review the agency's fee schedule before submitting your request.

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