Log In OpenRecords

Frequently Asked Questions

What does FOIL mean?

What kinds of records do I have the right to see?

Are there any public records that I can’t see?

Do I have to explain why I want the records?

How much does it cost to get access to government records?

How long does it take to get access to government records?

Can I make an anonymous request?

How do I know which agency handles the records I need?

How do I make a request?

I asked for a copy of public records and the agency refused my request, saying that it was too broad. What can I do?

How do I track a request?

What if I have multiple requests that I want to track or would like to see what other requests have been submitted?

What if I don’t agree with an agency’s response?


What does FOIL mean?

FOIL stands for the Freedom of Information Law. The New York State Freedom of Information Law requires government agencies to provide records to the public upon request. Government records affect the lives of each New Yorker, and providing easy access to the records makes government work better.
Back to top


What kinds of records do I have the right to see?

The FOIL definition of records is very broad and includes information found in paper and electronic documents and audio and visual recordings. All records are available upon request, unless an exception in FOIL permits an agency to deny access to a record.
Back to top


Are there any public records that I can’t see?

Yes, there are exceptions in FOIL. Most of the exceptions are based upon common sense and the potential for harm that would arise if the contents of the record were disclosed to unauthorized people. If disclosure of a record would be damaging to an individual or prevent a government agency from carrying out its duties, it is likely that some or all of the record may be withheld. You can read the law, including the exceptions, by clicking here. See FOIL §87(2)
Back to top


Do I have to explain why I want the records?

No, unless you are a business or other organization that is requesting a list of names and addresses.
Back to top


How much does it cost to get access to government records?

There is no charge to submit a FOIL request or to look at records in the office of an agency. However, you may be charged by an agency for the cost of reproducing the records you requested. FOIL limits the amount that can be charged.

You may always include in your request letter a specific statement limiting the amount that you are willing to pay. If an agency estimates that the total cost will exceed that amount, you may narrow your request in order to reduce the cost.
Back to top


How long does it take to get access to government records?

The agency will acknowledge your request within five (5) business days of receiving it. The actual time to complete a request will vary depending on many factors, such as the number of records requested and the difficulty involved in locating and reviewing the records. You will be notified of the amount of time the agency needs to complete your request.
Back to top


Can I make an anonymous request?

On the OpenRecords portal, your name will not be viewable by the public. The topic of the request will be shown.
Back to top


How do I know which agency handles the records I need?

The OpenRecords portal has a field named “categories” that will help you identify the correct agency. When you choose one of the categories, the list of possible agencies will be narrowed to those that may have the records you want. You can select the agency from the list provided to start the FOIL request process. If you submit a records request to the wrong agency, you will be notified within five days that the request should be resubmitted to a different agency.
Back to top


How do I make a request?

You can submit a FOIL request at the OpenRecords portal for all NYC agencies. Visit https://a860-openrecords.nyc.gov/request/new and follow the prompts and directions provided in order to make your request.
Back to top


I asked for a copy of public records and the agency refused my request, saying that it was too broad. What can I do?

An agency may deny a request that does not "reasonably describe" records. If the request is too vague, the agency may ask for clarification. You may then submit a new request with a more specific description of the records you would like.
Back to top


How do I track a request?

After your request has been submitted, a message will display verifying the submission and providing a request number. Select Track an Existing Request from the top menu and enter your request number, then press the Find my Request button. The status of your request will be displayed.
Back to top


What if I have multiple requests that I want to track or would like to see what other requests have been submitted?

Select View Requests from the top menu. You can then search existing requests using text from the request, the current status, the date range and the agency.
Back to top


What if I don’t agree with an agency’s response?

You may appeal a decision to deny your request within 30 days of receiving the denial or partial denial. The denial or partial denial should provide the contact information for the Agency Appeals Officer. Your appeal letter should state the reason you are appealing and why the agency's response to the request was improper.
Back to top