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National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History Letter to Mayor Bloomberg Regarding the Giuliani Papers

February 19, 2002

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, New York 10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

On behalf of the member organizations of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (a national coalition of historical and archival organizations), I am writing to express concern over the recent removal of the mayoral papers of the Giuliani Administration from the custody of the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS). These records are property of the City of New York and should be readily accessible in the public domain. The effect of the arrangement negotiated recently by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani makes it more difficult to access these records by city archivists, historians, and the public. It also violates the spirit if not the letter of the New York City Charter.

According to that Charter, Chapter 72, paragraph 3,004: the mandate of DORIS is “to preserve and receive all city records of historical research, cultural or other important value.” Placing these records in the hands of a third-party entity violates that intent.

Mayor Giuliani’s records are of particular importance: In light of the recent terrorist attacks in New York City, historians and other researchers will have an extraordinary interest in having access to the former mayor’s records. In this regard, his records are of national significance and they should be carefully preserved and made readily available to all interested parties as rapidly as possible.

Of particular concern to us is that under the current arrangement, former Mayor Giuliani will have the right to block public access to any documents in which he deems he has a “private interest.” Consistent with established archival principles and past procedures of DORIS, we believe such access decisions should properly be made by qualified professional archivists who are responsible to the public.

We are also troubled by the apparently unprecedented action whereby the City appears to have segregated these mayoral documents from the Municipal Archives and relinquished to a third-party the City’s responsibility for the preservation and care of these important documents. In accordance with the City Charter, we believe those obligations properly rest with those professional archival staff employed by the City of New York who are responsible to the public.

Lastly, we are concerned that the arrangement negotiated by the former mayor gives a private entity priority of access to important documents of civic and historical interest over the equally valid research interests of historians and others scholars. At the present moment, the Rudolph W. Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs has unfettered access to all of these records, while other historians, scholars, and members of the public have no access at all. We believe that this kind of specialized preference is inconsistent with the city’s tradition of providing public access to municipal records.

We urge you to terminate the current arrangement, and regain custody of these important mayoral records.

Sincerely, Bruce Craig
Director, NCCPH

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Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs