August 20, 2001
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The
ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
As you are aware, I have received your letter of July 12 in which you sought assistance in
obtaining records under the Freedom of Information Law from the Niagara Falls Bridge
Commission. Based on our discussion of the matter, it is my understanding that the jurisdiction of
the Commission involves New York and Ontario, and that its members are designated by officials
in New York and Canada. If that is so, I do not believe that the Commission would be subject to the
Freedom of Information Law.
In this regard, that statute is applicable to agency records, and §86(3) defines the term
"agency" to mean:
"any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division,
commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council,
office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or
proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities
thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature."
In a case involving the application of the New York Freedom of Information Law to the Waterfront
Commission of New York Harbor, which is a bi-state agency, it was held in Metro-ILA Pension
Fund v. Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (Supreme Court, New York County, NYLJ,
December 16, 1986) that "[a]n interstate agency is created by interstate compact, and New York may
not impose its preferences with respect to freedom of information on the other party to the compact."
Therefore, it was held that "the Waterfront Commission is not an 'agency' subject to New York's
Freedom of Information Law." In like manner, since the Commission is international in nature, I do
not believe that New York may impose its laws beyond its borders.
In short, if my understanding of the matter is accurate, the Commission would fall beyond
the coverage of the New York Freedom of Information Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman