A Whitestone resident and media producer is suing the Office of the Queens Borough President and the borough president herself, Melinda Katz, alleging repeated violations of the state’s Freedom of Information Law for failing to respond to his requests for information concerning records related to the Willets Point neighborhood.
Robert LoScalzo, who says he has been working on an independent documentary about the Willets Point area since 2007, says he requested records concerning meetings held by Katz on Jan. 29 and March 3 of this year to discuss the deteriorated streets in the area, a possible city Department of Transportation contract to repave the streets for $9.1 million, waste-hauling tractor-trailers that park in the neighborhood and the status of its redevelopment.
LoScalzo says he made his initial FOIL request on May 12 and an appeal on June 4, and didn’t receive a reply to either one.
State law requires one within five business days, and a lack of response is tantamount to a denial, according to the state Committee on Open Government, which monitors compliance with the FOIL and Open Meetings Law. The only recourse available is to sue an agency.
A copy of the lawsuit says it was filed on Aug. 12 in state Supreme Court in Queens.
Katz’s office said it has not been served with any suit and wouldn't comment on pending litigation if it had, but that it has responded to the FOIL request. The office did not respond to a question about when the response was sent, and as of press time, LoScalzo said he hadn’t received a response.
In a sharply worded press release, LoScalzo accused Katz of hypocrisy and duplicity with the public.
“Just before this past Fourth of July weekend, Melinda Katz sent an email to her list, quoting loftily from the Declaration of Independence and imploring everyone to read America’s founding documents and get acquainted with our hard-won rights,” the release said in part.
“Ironically, when those of us who know our rights attempt to exercise them at Borough President Katz’s office by requesting public records, those rights are denied.”