NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Hearing on Vital Records

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted the public hearing on their proposed guideline to transfer the birth and death records to the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) after 125 years from date of birth and 75 years from date of death.  Over 60 people attended the hearing with about half testifying.  The NYCDoHMH website garnered 357 comments by the time of the cutoff-Tuesday, October 24 at 5:00PM EDT.  To view the comments see: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/comments-view/27591
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYGBS) wrote a report in their blog this morning.  They note the other organizations that were also at the hearing and testified. It is available at: http://bit.ly/2yP1B2R.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted the public hearing on their proposed guideline to transfer the birth and death records to the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) after 125 years from date of birth and 75 years from date of death.  Over 60 people attended the hearing with about half testifying.  The NYCDoHMH website garnered 357 comments by the time of the cutoff-Tuesday, October 24 at 5:00PM EDT.  To view the comments see: http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/comments-view/27591.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYGBS) wrote a report in their blog this morning.  They note the other organizations that were also at the hearing and testified. The report is available at: http://bit.ly/2yP1B2R.

9 Comments

Reblogged this on Gazelle's Scirocco Winds and commented:
For those adoptees in NY

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I read parts of https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/foil2.html which is the official New York State Committee of Open Government: Freedom of Information Law. Nowhere does it state that a local statute can deny information which is public throughout the remainder of the State. I am sure that if the years of access are further narrowed, that this will involve a number of law suits (at taxpayer expense) to enforce restrictions that do not affect most of entire State of New York.

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    Everything you say is true, but there are a couple of reasons why it is much better if we can manage to put the kibosh on this whole idea from the get go, rather than have to resort to a lawsuit:
    1) Lawsuits are expensive, and the end results can never be guaranteed, no matter how good we think our case is.
    2) In the absence of an injunction ordering them to keep the current rules in place while the case wends its way through the courts, NYC would be free to put the new policy into effect and enforce their new rules making the records inaccessible to researchers right away. In order to get an injunction to prevent that, we would have to prove we will suffer .”irreparable harm” by having to wait for the final judgment on the main case, and I’m not sure a court will agree that having to wait a year or two to see a 110 year old birth certificate in order to fill in a box on a family tree would be considered “irreparable harm.”
    2) More importantly, there is some concern that if NYC implements the proposed new restrictions, rather than trying to stop them, the rest of the state may follow NYC’s lead and attempt to amend the law to make the same restrictions applicable to the rest of the state as well.

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    The only way to put the kibosh on this idea is likely to be a lawsuit. The Health Dept. claims it is accountable to no one else in New York. Whether or not this is true, it seems there is likely a hidden agenda here that can only be guessed at. Perhaps the Health Dept. records are in massive disarray, or perhaps it has to do with their long-running turf battle with the Dept. of Records and Information Services (DORIS), which runs the Municipal Archives. Under the current regulations, birth certificates through 1916 and death records through 1966 are supposed to have been turned over to the Archives. Currently, they have received birth records through 1909 and death records through 1948. Under their proposal, no further birth records would be available until 2036, and no further death records would be available until 2024. Since statistics from states with much more liberal policies (and who would think that Texas would be more liberal than NYC on this issue?) do not bear out the concern of identity theft, why are they seizing on this as the reason?

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As one of the speakers at the hearing, I would like to note that none of the people who spoke were in favor of this proposal, and none of the public comments that were posted to the Dept. were in favor. New York City can make its own rules on the holding of public documents under NY state law. The Health Dept. has a long track record of being uncooperative and at the hearing, it was stated they do not answer to the City Council or the Mayor. We will just have to wait and see what they decide to do. Reclaim the Records has already promised a lawsuit if they go forward with this and unless they release birth records from 1910-1917 and death records from 1948-1967, as they are already mandated by city law to do. Stay tuned.

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    You are right. It’s never safe to assume a NY State law applies in NYC. Many NY State laws include a sentence somewhere that makes their provisions effective everywhere in the state “except cities having a population in excess of” a very large number that only NYC can muster.

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I contribute to Reclaim the Records. What they say they do, they actually do. I am going to contribute another small amount to them to help fund their work and their law suits.

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I hope everyone will follow the link Dick has provided to the NYGBS report on what happened at the hearing. It highlights some excellent presentations which might prove useful in fighting off similar challenges elsewhere.

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What was the outcome of the October meeting?

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