New York

Definition of Public Record

A record is defined as any information kept, held, filed, produced, or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever. Documents are still covered by the act if a promise of confidentiality has been given, if they are in temporary possession of someone else, or if they originated outside the government but have come into possession of the government. 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Exempt: Disclosures resulting in unwarranted invasion of privacy or business/competition enterprises; names of sex crime victims; and some law enforcement records and inter/intra-agency materials. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

5 days. 3

Information on Fees

Fees may cover search time after the first two hours and copying costs as appropriate. 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

One may appeal or sue. “4. (a) Except as provided in subdivision five of this section, any person denied access to a record may within thirty days appeal in writing such denial to the head, chief executive or governing body of the entity, or the person therefor designated by such head, chief executive, or governing body, who shall within ten business days of the receipt of such appeal fully explain in writing to the person requesting the record the reasons for further denial, or provide access to the record sought. ” N.Y. Pub. Off. Law Ch. 47 Art. 6 § 87(c).(see) If a FOIL request is denied by an agency, and an administrative appeal to the agency results in upholding the denial, the requester has the option of commencing legal action (known as an Article 78 proceeding) against the agency in which a New York State Supreme Court judge will decide the merits of the disclosure issue under FOIL. Many such legal cases are brought by news organizations as surrogates for the public. 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, you can win attorney’s fees. 6

Do You Want to Make a Public Records Request?

The public records process begins with a public records request. Our guide outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information.

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Questions? Contact the Goldwater Institute.

If you have any questions regarding this guide or your rights to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

Goldwater Institute