NYC Council Press Release on Passage of Five New Open Data Bills

November 24, 2015

CITY COUNCIL PASSES OPEN DATA LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE
BILLS TO IMPROVE OPEN DATA LAW
At the NYC Council’s Stated Meeting on Tuesday, November 24th, the Council voted in favor of a legislative package of five bills designed to improve the existing Open Data Law. Committee on Technology Chair James Vacca, along with Council Members Gentile, Cabrera, Torres, and Kallos are lead sponsors of the legislation.

The Open Data Law, passed in 2012, requires the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to work with City agencies to post public data online in a centrally accessible location – the Open Data portal – by 2018. DoITT has made considerable efforts to ensure compliance and has succeeded in populating the portal with new data as it becomes available. However, several issues have arisen that necessitated this legislative remedy, ranging from technical standards to overall compliance.

“This package of five bills will dramatically strengthen the Open Data Law,” said Council Member James Vacca. “Each piece of legislation will improve users’ experience, and ultimately, will make a larger amount of data more accessible to all.” Vacca is the lead sponsor of legislation designed to require the timely updating of certain public data sets on the open data portal. “It is extremely important that our Open Data datasets are up-to-date. All users should be assured that the information up on the portal is the most recent available, and I believe my bill will do just that. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Members Gentile, Cabrera, Torres, Kallos, and the administration for taking the time to negotiate these bills with me, and I look forward to the results. Open Data is a priority for the Committee on Technology, for the Council as a whole, and for the administration, and I am thrilled to be moving forward with these bills, the first I have passed through this committee.” Additionally, four other bills were passed covering additional inadequacies in the existing law.

“Opening data and structuring it to improve public access is allowing many government agencies around the U.S. and the world to improve efficiency and find solutions to long-standing problems,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Int. 890 will increase public access to New York City data through the creation and preservation of archives that allow us to track trends over time in order to make important decisions about how to move forward.”

“Today’s passage of the Open Data legislative package is a significant step in improving the system that allows the public to request government data and also provides increased transparency. My bill would set up a timeline for responding to open data requests and removes the backlog that has been lingering for months. The public should be able to get speedy responses to their requests and this bill will ensure that. I look forward to the package being signed into law and implemented as quickly as possible,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.

“Standardizing address and geospatial information for datasets on the Open Data Portal will provide a solution to the frustrating issue of mapping data with no set format,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer. “I thank Chair Vacca for his commitment to meaningful improvements to the Open Data Law and I look forward to an Open Data Portal that is more accessible and usable for New Yorkers.”

“The Open Data Legislative Package ensures that all New York City residents can access and easily comprehend our City agencies’ flow of information,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile.

“We applaud the City Council and the Mayor’s Office for agreeing on this package of five bills which strengthen and improve NYC’s landmark Open Data Law. We thank Technology Chair Jimmy Vacca and his colleagues, for listening to the public and taking pragmatic steps to get city agencies to publish accurate, usable, timely, agency data. This is what opening up government looks like. Together, these bills give an important boost to open data, and help make city government more transparent and effective,” said John Kaehny, Co-Chair NYC Transparency Working Group and Executive Director of Reinvent Albany, who helped craft New York City’s 2012 Open Data Law.

“Today, the Nation’s best open data program gets better. We thank the Council & Council Member Vacca for their leadership. We are very excited to have legislation outlining data dictionaries and address standardization. The BetaNYC community is excited to work with the City to share our experience and increase data accessibility,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC.

“Citizens Union applauds the City Council for working with the administration to strengthen the City’s landmark Open Data Law,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “The passage of these bills shows that the City is committed to learn from experience and adapt to make its data even more accessible.”

“Common Cause NY thanks Chair Vacca and congratulates the City Council on passing bills that will standardize the ways our city agencies’ data is made available for public use,” said Susan Lerner, Common Cause NY’s Executive Director. “Formalizing a data dictionary and geospatial information will enhance the usefulness of these datasets created by our public tax dollars.”

“The League of Women Voters of the City of New York supports the Open Data laws of NYC because they promote transparency in government,” said Catherine Gray, co-president of the League of Women Voters of NYC. “These 5 bills will increase public access, promote more active participation in government, and enhance understanding of major policy. Technology will offer access to vital public data including machine readable formats, automatic updates and better searching tools.”