Complaining Has Never Been So Easy

  • Do you have a noisy neighbor? Someone who always stresses you out with loud music? Young students celebrating chaotic parties? If you feel ashamed calling the police for such a matter, there is a new way of delivering your message to who lives around you: the online complaint directory of NYC 311. 311 is New York City’s website and phone number for government information and non-emergency services, which was started to provide the public with quick, easy access to all New York City government services and information while maintaining the highest possible level of customer service.

    Besides resources for the neighborhood, the website also offers a complaint form that automatically adds its input to a searchable map which allows citizens to see all the complaints coming in from specific locations throughout Manhattan. Search is available by address, intersection, community district or City Council district. 311 calls are represented by yellow circles, which grow in size as more complaints are registered. In rolling out this new feature, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said:

    “I think citizens in real time have a right to know where the problems and trouble spots are in their neighborhoods… They need to have that information so they look at those problems and can hold government accountable, and propose solutions to those.”

    The system undoubtably represents a powerful and effective way for the neighbors to increase their responsibility, but may have some collateral effects too: one out of all, it may become a quite precise instrument in determining the living standards of a neighborhood, and subsequently increase or decrease the price of housing in relation to the number and the intensity of complaint. Will this also be a consequence of the (hopefully increasing) transparency in the administration systems of the city?