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Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Requests
Freedom of Information Law Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.  What is a FOIL request?

A Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request is a request to obtain records/documents from government agencies.

2.  To whom should I direct my request and how?

If you wish to access records under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), you must include the following information in writing:

  • The requestor's name, address, phone number;
  • Specify the records being requested (e.g. pest control, daycare, etc.). Include as much detail about the records as possible, including relevant dates, names, descriptions, addresses, etc.

To submit a FOIL request, send your inquiry by mail, fax or e-mail to:

Records Access Officer
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Gotham Center
42-09 28th Street, Floor 14th, CN31
Long Island City, NY 11101

Fax:
(347) 396-6088

E-mail: recordsaccess@health.nyc.gov

3.  What happens after your request is received?

After you submit your FOIL request, the Record Access Officer will acknowledge its receipt within five business days and will provide you with a program contact person, if the documents can be disclosed.  If the records are confidential and cannot be disclosed to you under FOIL, you will receive a denial letter. If your request is denied, your rights to an appeal will be provided.

4.  How long does it take to get a response?

After you have received the acknowledgement from the Records Access Officer, you should generally receive a response from the program(s) indicated on your letter, within twenty business days. If an agency grants a request in part, and if circumstances prevent disclosure to the person requesting the record(s) within twenty business days from the date of the acknowledgement of the receipt of the request, the agency shall state, in writing, both the reason for the inability to grant the request within twenty business days and a date certain within a reasonable period, depending on the circumstances, when the request will be granted in whole or in part.

5.  Will your Agency accept a verbal request for documents?

No. All requests must be in writing.

6.  Can I request records on behalf of another person?

 Yes. You must have an authorization from that individual.

7.  What can I do if my request is denied?

 If you have been denied access to documents by the Records Access Officer, you will be notified in writing. You have a right to appeal, but you must do so within 30 calendar days. An appeal must be filed in writing and mailed or faxed to:

Thomas Merrill
Appeals Officer & General Counsel
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Gotham Center
42-09 28th Street, Floor 14th, CN30
Long Island City, NY 11101

Fax:
(347) 396-6087

8.  What should I do if I do not get a timely response from the DOHMH program?

You may contact the Records Access Officer for immediate intervention.  You also have the right to file an appeal.

9.  Why would I be denied access to a document requested under FOIL?

Certain records or portions thereof are exempt from disclosure under authority of Public Officers
Law Section 87(2). The nine categories of deniable records include:

  • those specifically exempted from disclosure under state or federal statute;
  • if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
  • if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations;
  • are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency or are derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise;
  • are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which if disclosed would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings, deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication, identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information regarding a criminal investigation, or reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures, except routine techniques and procedures;
  • if disclosed would endanger the life or safety of any person;
  • are inter-agency or intra-agency materials;
  • are examination questions or answers which are requested prior to the final administration of such questions;
  • If disclosed, would jeopardize an agency’s capacity to guarantee the security of its information technology assets;
10.  How many restaurant or daycare center violations can I request without filing a FOIL request?

Up to five requests.

11.  Can an agency deny my request because it is too broad or too vague?


An agency may reject a request that does not "reasonably describe" records. If the request is too vague to answer, the agency may seek clarification of the request.