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Mayor Bill de Blasio Signs Two Transparency Bills into Law, Announces Public-Private Partnership to Release City Record Data

August 7, 2014

NEW YORK—Building on his commitment to create a more transparent and effective City government that serves New Yorkers across the five boroughs, Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed Intro 363-A and Intro 149-A into law and announced a public-partnership that will enable New York City to unlock and analyze municipal decision-making information stored in the City Record—going back more than 15 years.

The first piece of legislation, Introductory 363-A, requires the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to post online the City Record within 24 hours of publishing the City Record, in a searchable and downloadable format. It also mandates that the City Record data is included in the Open Data portal. The second bill, Introductory 149-A, requires the Law Department to publish the City Charter, the Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York online and update the compilation of laws within 30 days of any change.

In addition to signing these two bills, the Mayor announced a new public-private partnership centered around the release of more than 4,000 daily publications of the City Record, including daily reporting on government procurement, public hearings and meetings, disposition of public property, and hiring. This body of archival data—which cannot be analyzed in their current PDF file format—will serve as a valuable tool in understanding the trends and patterns surrounding City operations and forging a smarter, more effective city fit for the 21st Century.

“Today is another step forward on our path toward a more transparent City Hall that delivers for New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Whether publishing more content on the Internet or making data more accessible and user-friendly, today we’re advancing our administration’s goal of becoming the most technology-friendly and innovation-driven city in the world—as well as  harnessing the power of data collection and analysis to address challenges and improve this City. I’d like to thank City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Brad Lander and Ben Kallos for sponsoring these important bills, as well as our six partners—BetaNYC, Citizens Union, Dev Bootcamp, Ontodia, Socrata, and Sunlight Foundation—for helping make New York City more open for all its residents.”  

“The Council is committed to making this City government as transparent and inclusive as possible, and making important documents more accessible to the public is a simple, but significant way to contribute toward that goal,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I’d like to thank Council Members Lander and Kallos for sponsoring these items and Mayor de Blasio for supporting this Council initiative by signing these two bills into law today.”

“Open government means laws and notices are online, where New Yorkers expect to find them,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Now, public information printed daily in the City Record, such as meetings, contracts, and City planning, will be online, complete and up to date, so residents can make informed choices and data analysts can help us achieve a smarter city. Putting the law online upholds Hammurabi’s legacy of making the law public on stone tablets millenia ago. In the 21st Century, that means putting all laws online, continuously updated, and Council Member Lander’s Open Law legislation does exactly that. Under Mayor de Blasio, technology and open government to spur business, improve government and close the digital divide, are priorities. I thank him, Speaker Mark-Viverito, and all the activists who worked on this for turning these ideas into law.”

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But how can New Yorkers know the laws, if they can’t find them online?” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Intro 149 will make sure that all New York City laws are easily accessible and searchable online. Thank you to the Mayor, the Law Department, and all of the civic technology and good government partners who are working with the City for continuing to move us forward in using technology to make essential government information easily and meaningfully available to New Yorkers.”

“The City has published the City Record every weekday—except legal holidays—since 1873. It is the central repository for information about upcoming public hearings and meetings, procurement opportunities and awards, and of agencies’ proposed and adopted rules,” said Stacey Cumberbatch, Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “And, while some portions of the City Record are currently online and fully searchable now, we look forward to unveiling more archival content, and making all of the paper’s content available online and fully searchable, as we help to advance the Mayor’s vision of more open government.”

“From building 311 and reinventing, to implementation of the City’s seminal Open Data Law, DoITT proudly plays a role in making New York City government more accessible and transparent to the New Yorkers we serve,” said DoITT Commissioner Anne M. Roest. “Today, we’re excited to partner with DCAS, civic technologists, and good government groups on this latest advancement of the open government cause.”

“The future of our cities, schools and institutions is one of openness and transparency,” said Lloyd Nimetz, Director of Dev Bootcamp NYC. “The signing of this law is an exciting milestone for civic tech and one of dozens of examples of how New York City is pioneering in both civic innovation and technology.”

“We commend New York City’s continued efforts to get the City Record online and to take this next step to structure additional information in the City Record in machine-readable open formats. We also commend the New York City Council on their recent rules reform, encouraging structured legislative data and an open API, and are happy to see this next step to open the New York City legal code,” said Rebecca Williams, Policy Analyst for the Sunlight Foundation.

“The City Record is the ‘logfile’ of the City. Much like the PLUTO dataset opened by the City last year, the City Record is a dynamic curated aggregation from several City agencies that will unlock new operational insights,” said Joel Natividad, CEO & Co-founder of Ontodia. “It will allow citizens, policy-makers, researchers, journalists, activists, academics and businesses to keep the pulse of the City administration.”

“Starting today, the Mayor and this City Council will place fundamental components of democracy online, for no cost, available to anyone regardless of location, privilege, language or device. We are delighted to see the Mayor and this Council build on the City’s pioneering transparency efforts,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC. “We look forward to unleashing this canonical database of municipal information. One year from now, we envision municipal notifications streaming through every imaginable interface. As a result of the efforts of this pioneering civic hacking working group, the City Record and Law will become a first-class collection of information that strengthens local business opportunities and builds smarter neighborhoods. Today, New York City takes another pioneering step towards making government accessible for the people.”

“Technology is a powerful tool to improve the way in which the public is informed about City government and how it makes decisions,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “These new City laws and the City’s partnership with civic technologists under the City Record Online Working Group will ensure that important government information is readily available online in a user-friendly manner. We are pleased to see Mayor de Blasio sign into law the Council’s bills, introduced by Council Members Brad Lander and Ben Kallos. As a result of their actions, the public will now be able to more easily find information about the City’s laws, public meetings, hearings, and rules changes.”

“We’re very excited to collaborate with New York’s Civic Technology community to help unlock the troves of information currently locked up in City Record PDFs,” said Chris Whong, Data Solutions Architect at Socrata. “This project will reap huge rewards for the entire city, and will serve as a model for improving access to municipal records worldwide.”

About the Partners

  • BetaNYC is a nonprofit building a connected city by the people, for the people, for 21st Century. BetaNYC is a network of technologists, designers, hackers, neighbors and advocates building 21st Century interfaces with government. Founded in 2009, it works to demystify government, data, and technology through weekly gatherings that are safe spaces for all. In 2013, through the People’s Roadmap to a Digital New York City, BetaNYC argued that New York City must put the City Record online in a machine-readable format.
  • Citizens Union is a nonpartisan good government group dedicated to making democracy work for all New Yorkers. Founded in 1897, it works to ensure fair and open elections, honest and efficient government, and a civically‐engaged public. Beginning in 2009, Citizens Union argued for the City Record to be placed online. It brings more than 100 years of institutional experience in ways New York City government is organized and can engage the public.
  • Dev Bootcamp is the original coding bootcamp, a 9-week immersive educational model which transforms novices into web developers. This program is based in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, and is supportive of civic hacking and diversity in tech. Dev Bootcamp brings a network of students and alumni passionate about learning and building technology.
  • Ontodia is a large open data solutions firm based in New York City, and former NYC BigApps winner. Ontodia’s team is internationally recognized for their work with geo-linked open data and PDF information liberation. Ontodia has hosted several projects and events to scrape PDFs into machine usable data.
  • Socrata helps public sector organizations improve transparency, citizen service, and data-driven decision-making. As New York City’s data catalogue provider, Socrate brings vast expertise in democratizing datasets and making data useful.
  • Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to all. It brings extensive expertise in liberating data from closed formats. From advocating for open government data policies across the country to building communities to extract and reformat data through projects like Open States and the PDF Liberation Hackathon, Sunlight Foundation is one of the premier thought leaders on structured open government data.

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