When Sarah Ryley, an investigative reporter at the New York Daily News, filed a records request with the city’s police department earlier this year, she didn’t expect to hear back for a while. Ryley, working with ProPublica, was investigating how often the city evicted residents over alleged violations of its nuisance abatement law, which gave it the power to shut down businesses and residences that were being used for illegal purposes.
Months passed before Ryley heard back from the city, so she decided to start the digging herself. She poured though thousands of pages of New York State Supreme Court filings, entering details of over 1,100 cases, one by one, into a spreadsheet. The process took Ryley and her research partners weeks to complete, but by the end of it the team had compiled a dataset that was one of a kind.