De Blasio Administration Expands Access to Government Publications Through Unified Online Portal

March 26, 2015

Portal enables New Yorkers to easily search and download thousands of City agency reports from a single source: nyc.gov/publications

NEW YORK—The de Blasio administration, led by the Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS) with technical support from the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), today announced the launch of the City’s government publications portal. The portal, currently available in beta version, is a consolidated online hub that stores thousands of reports issued by City agencies—for which the records department serves as the historical repository. This portal is required by the City Charter and makes current government reports available to the public in one centralized location.

This revamped publications portal will expand New Yorkers’ access to government records online by enabling the public to easily and quickly search—at one online location—a vast quantity of City reports by document title, description, agency, type of report, and category. A year ago, only 48 percent of agencies had provided electronic reports for online posting. Now, 100 percent of mayoral agencies and offices are submitting reports. To date, approximately 12,000 publications are currently online, with 7,000 more submitted and others being added as they are issued. More will be submitted in the coming months, as the portal continues to develop.

“The City’s new publications portal will allow all New Yorkers with Internet access to quickly and easily retrieve a trove of government records from one centralized location,” said DoRIS Commissioner Pauline Toole. “By launching this new and improved publications portal, our City has taken a decisive step forward in creating a more open and transparent government for all New Yorkers.”

“Empowering City agencies to better serve New Yorkers is at the heart of our mission,” said DoITT Commissioner Anne Roest. “We’re honored to have partnered with DoRIS to launch the Government Publications Portal, and congratulate Commissioner Toole and her team on delivering and developing this tool in true collaborative fashion.”

“Making public data easier to access is a win-win. It’s good for the public and good for government,” said Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco. “We’re excited to continue supporting mayoral agencies and offices as they work toward making more of their data public and optimizing their sites for mobile.”

Key Features of the Government Publications Portal

  • Basic Search – Comb through the database by searching document titles, descriptions, agencies, types, and categories to give you the best possible results
  • Advanced Search – Filter your results by agency, category, and type to make the search even faster and more targeted
  • Sorting – Sort any search by agency, category, type, and relevance
  • Dynamic Pagination – View 10, 20, 50, or 100 results per page
  • Mobile-Friendly, User-Centered Design – See documents without manually saving them to your computer

 

The publications portal is an open source platform that has been developed with feedback from the civic technology community and built with students from the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. Programming for this initiative began in June 2014. Spearheaded by DORIS, DoITT provided technical assistance as well as development standards and guidelines for the project. DoITT and the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation also provided guidance on tool selection and development.

In the coming months, the City will add additional types of information to the portal and continue to solicit past reports and additional government participants. DoRIS’s Municipal Librarian is currently developing a database of every required report. In the next phase of the portal development, DoRIS plans to add increased functionality, such as multimedia content and archived websites.

This portal was launched as a beta so DoRIS could gather feedback from the user community. New Yorkers are encouraged to offer input, submit new requests and bug reports, and send any improvements to the code.

“Government works best when it is operating openly and transparently,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “New Yorkers have a right to know what their elected and appointed officials are doing. This new centralized portal will make it easier for our constituents to access information and engage their government.”

“The launch of a city publications portal is an important day for government transparency in New York. By publishing these reports in a simple, easy to search website, we can provide meaningful access to valuable government information,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Bringing the City’s important work online has been a priority of mine since the web began; it’s a massive job, and the Mayor, DoRIS, and DoITT deserve applause for this effort. I’m especially excited that the city is seeking collaborative input in this process, and look forward to working with the civic technology community to ensure the portal is a success.”

“Advancing technology in the civic arena is a priority for Brooklyn and my administration. Residents should have easy-to-read and easy-to-understand access to government and its resources. I thank DoRIS and DoITT for their work on the government publications portal and their efforts to improve our City’s connection to everyday New Yorkers,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“I am pleased to see the creation and launch of the City’s government publications portal,” said Chair of Committee on Technology James Vacca. “This portal is good government at its best by being open and transparent. It will provide the public access to reports that hold a wealth of agency information, while building public trust and encouraging public engagement. Through this portal, the public will be able to engage with us to move the City forward.”

“City records are getting out of the archives and onto the Internet, where anyone will have access to a virtual treasure trove of information. Many of the records we need to hold government accountable will now be online,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Government Operations Committee with oversight over the Department of Records and Information Services. “Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Pauline Toole for leadership on transparency and technology initiatives to modernize government. This portal is a great example of government building technology the right way, using city employees to develop free and open source software that will benefit not only our city, but every other government seeking to bring the same transparency to the people.”

“We are proud that four NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering computer science students played such instrumental roles in making City records more accessible to the public,” said President and Dean at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Katepalli R. Sreenivasan. “All four of these juniors and seniors – Joel Castillo, Alan Chen, Alvi Kabir, and Panagis (Peter) Alisandratos – also demonstrate some of the ways in which talented young engineers contribute to the vibrancy and openness of our City. This project offered them experience that reached far beyond coding to the design and architecture of the portal. The results of their creativity will be appreciated by citizens for many years to come and truly demonstrates the new face of engineering within society. On behalf of the students, I appreciate the opportunity that the City provided to them.”

“This is an exciting project for both civic technologists and transparency advocates,” said John Kaehny, Co-Chair of the NYC Transparency Working Group. “Technologists appreciate the nimble and low cost way City workers have built the portal using open source code. They also like the fact the City is breaking new ground by putting a beta or test version of the new records portal online and then taking public feedback and improving it—public websites should always be evolving. Transparency advocates are happy to finally meet the Open Data portal’s long lost twin. The Records portal has the reports and narratives that the Open Data portal, which publishes tabular data only, does not.”

“This is a great step into the 21st Century,” said Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC Executive Director. “We’re ready to stand on the shoulder of giants and leverage the smarts of NYC’s open source community. Join us as we innovate on top of this open source tool, and expand information access across the City.”

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

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