Executive Summary

The audit determined whether the Department of Finance (DOF) is complying with Local Law 25, which is intended to make City agencies, and ultimately the City as a whole, more accessible to foreign-born residents whose primary language is not English.  This audit of DOF is one in a series of audits we are conducting of the City’s compliance with Local Law 25.

New York is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world, with more than four million foreign-born residents from more than 200 different countries.  More than 75 percent of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and almost 46 percent, or 1.8 million people, are limited in English proficiency.  For New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, interacting with City government and receiving access to City services can be a challenge.

Most City agencies have a significant presence on the internet and rely on agency websites to both provide information and to interact with the public.  Accordingly, in 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed Local Law 25, amending the City’s Administrative Code in relation to citizens’ ability to access translation of City websites.  Local Law 25 requires that every website maintained by or on behalf of a City agency include a translation service enabling users to view the text of that website, wherever practicable, in languages other than English.  It also requires that the translation service be identifiable in a manner that is comprehensible to speakers of the seven most commonly spoken languages in the city.  As determined by the Department of City Planning, the seven most commonly spoken languages in New York City amongst residents with limited English proficiency are:

  1. Spanish
  2. Chinese (includes Cantonese, Mandarin, and Formosan)
  3. Russian
  4. Bengali
  5. French Créole (also called Haitian Créole)
  6. Korean
  7. Arabic

Results

The audit found that DOF generally complies with Local Law 25.  DOF’s website, found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/index.page, includes a translation feature for viewing text and essential information in various languages, including the top seven noted languages.  DOF’s website also provides important information regarding its functions and services.  This includes but is not limited to information pertaining to DOF’s various divisions, office locations, contact information, benefits, ways to save, paying property taxes, paying fines, paying or disputing parking tickets, serving legal papers, judgement collection, NYC Rent Freeze Program, relevant news, updates, guides, searching property records and property tax rates.  All information can be translated and viewed in each of the top seven noted languages.

In addition, DOF provides an extensive quantity of documents on its website such as Property and Business Tax forms, Vehicle-Related Forms, Benefit Forms and Sheriff/Court Forms.  DOF’s most frequently requested documents[1] can be translated and downloaded in DOF’s six most requested languages (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Créole and Korean).  We reviewed and successfully translated the following documents into DOF’s six most requested languages:

  • Service of Process Intake Sheet
  • Bail Assignment Application
  • Cash Bail Refund Change of Address Notice
  • Stop Payment Affidavit
  • Surety Survivor’s Affidavit
  • Application for a Certificate of Deposit
  • Signature Verification
  • Administrative Fee Deduction Acknowledgment
  • Notice by Mail of Recorded Document Application
  • Property Refund Request
  • Got Tickets? (Brochure)

Certain documents (e.g., tax or financial forms) may not be available for translation online due to their legal nature.  However, DOF provides translation and interpretation services in all of its locations that interact with the general public, including its five Borough Business Centers located in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The audit recommends that DOF continue to maintain its compliance with Local Law 25, to ensure it effectively meets the needs of residents with limited English proficiency when accessing city services online.

In its response, DOF agreed with the report’s findings and stated, “DOF is in receipt of your Draft Letter Audit Report, dated April 24, 2017, pertaining to our agency’s compliance with Local Law 25.  We thank your office for acknowledging our efforts regarding language access on the DOF website and translated documents.  We are always looking to provide the best possible customer service to all of our constituents – in whatever language they require.”

[1] City agencies determine which documents are key, essential, frequently used and translated on City websites in the top languages for its business purposes.