How to file a Freedom of Information Law Request in New York State

Government agencies are subject to FOIL requests
The process for the New York State Senate is different than other agencies.
Documents are available to the public by request
Each agency is required to maintain a subject matter list with all categories of records that they keep.
Each agency has a records address officer and provide their contact information
They may also have their own FOIL request form on the agency website.
Send your request by online form, email, fax, mail or you can deliver in person.

An Overview of the FOIL Process

The Request Letter

The request should take 5 days to be confirmed, but there is no timeline for how long they have to complete the request.

Do not ask them to explain or analyze anything, only copy documents.

Appeal a Denial Due to an Agency's Failure to Respond in a Timely Manner

If you don’t get a confirmation in 5 days, or if the agency didn’t respond when they said they would send this letter.

Appeal a Written Denial

Send an appeal within 30 days of the rejection letter.

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The Request Letter

Letter

Date
Records Access Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, New York, Zip code

Sample Letter from The Committee on Open Government

Email
Subject

Freedom of Information Law Request

Write to the person responsible for FOIL requests in the agency

Records Access Officer:

It feels weird to write Dear Records Access Officer. Are they truely dear to you?

The records you are requesting

Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request records or portions thereof pertaining to (or containing the following) [detailed description of records]

You want to be as specific as possible here, if you’re not sure ask for some advice.

Only ask them to copy documents, not to analyze anything.

Follow up request

If my request is too broad or does not reasonably describe the records, please contact me via email so that I may clarify my request, and when appropriate inform me of the manner in which records are filed, retrieved or generated.

If your request is not specific enough, this asks them to contact you instead of rejecting your request

Your contact information

If it is necessary to modify my request, and an email response is not preferred, please contact me at the following telephone number [include telephone number]

Make it easy for them to contact you, don’t give them an excuse not to!

Ask them to email you the documents, if that’s the method you prefer.

Please email the records if possible. If all of the requested records cannot be emailed to me, please inform me by email of the portions that can be emailed and advise me of the cost for reproducing the remainder of the records requested. If the requested records cannot be emailed to me due to the volume of records identified in response to my request, please advise me of the actual cost of copying all records onto a CD.

They don’t have a reason to send you a nice PDF unless you explicitly ask for it

Yes, there are fees

If there are any fees in excess of $5.00 for copying the records requested, please inform me before filling the request. Please supply the records without informing me if the fees are not in excess of $5.00.

If a government employee spends more than 2 hours retrieving and copying records you may be charged for their time

Polietly remind them that they’re supposed to confirm that they got your request within 5 days.

As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly.

They aren’t held to any timeline for actually completing your request, it can take a couple of months to a year

If you don’t hear from them within 5 days, send an appeal letter

If they reject your request, ask them for the reason and the contact for the appeals officer

If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.

You will need the appeals officer information and the reason your request was rejected for your appeal letter

Your Contact Information

Sincerely,
Your name
Address
Email
Phone Number

Sincerely!

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Appeal A Denial due to an Agency’s Failure to Respond in a Timely Manner

Letter

Foil Appeals Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, NY, Zip code

Email
Subject

RE: Freedom of Information Law Appeal

Address it to the agency's appeal officer

Appeals Officer:

Include a description of the records and when they were requested

I requested [description of records requested] by written request made on [date of original request letter]

If they haven't responded within 5 days

More than five business days have passed since the receipt of the request without having received a response.

If they didn't respond by the time they said they would

Although the receipt of the request was acknowledged and I was informed that a response would be given by date, no response has been given.

No response is a rejection, that’s why you’re appealing.

Consequently, I consider the request to have been denied, and I am appealing on that basis.

They have 10 days to respond to your appeal

As required by the Freedom of Information Law, the head or governing body of an agency, or whomever is designated to determine appeals, is required to respond within 10 business days of the receipt of an appeal.

If they reject your appeal, they’ve got to tell you why in writing

If the records are denied on appeal, please explain the reasons for the denial fully in writing as required by law.

It's the law!

Remind them that they have to send appeals to the Committee on Open Government

In addition, please be advised that the Freedom of Information Law directs agencies to send all appeals and the determinations that follow to the Committee on Open Government, Department of State, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12231.

You know the rules, and now they know you know the rules.

Your contact information

Sincerely,
Your name
Address
Email
Phone Number

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Appeal A Written Denial

Letter

Foil Appeals Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, NY, Zip code

Email
Subject

RE: Freedom of Information Law Appeal

Address it to the agency's appeal officer

Appeals Officer:

This is an appeal!

I hereby appeal the denial of access regarding my request, which was made on [date of original request] and sent to [name of the records access officer in the original request and the name and address of the agency]

Include a description of the records and when they were requested

I requested [description of records requested] by written request made on [date of original request]

Why you disagree with the denial

I disagree with the denial of the request because [elaborate on the reason and include backup opinions from your research]

Try to include an opinion of the Committee on Open Government to support your reasoning.

They have 10 days to respond to your appeal

As required by the Freedom of Information Law, the head or governing body of an agency, or whomever is designated to determine appeals, is required to respond within 10 business days of the receipt of an appeal.

If they reject your appeal, they’ve got to tell you why in writing

If the records are denied on appeal, please explain the reasons for the denial fully in writing as required by law.

Remind them that they have to send appeals to the Committee on Open Government

In addition, please be advised that the Freedom of Information Law directs agencies to send all appeals and the determinations that follow to the Committee on Open Government, Department of State, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12231.

Your contact information

Sincerely,
Your name
Address
Email
Phone Number

If your appeal is rejected, then you can go to court Judicial review of a final agency denial Article 78 of Civial Practice Law and Rules.

FOIL Attorney fees may be awarded to a member of the public a mandatory fee is rewarded if the court finds that the agency had no reasonable basis for denying access.

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