Thursday, February 24, 2011

#311: New York City Grievance Hotline

Upper West Side, NYC

311 is, of course, the number New Yorkers are advised to dial when they have a not-quite-emergency question and/or a community grievance that needs attention. Less serious than 911 and more New York-centric than your average 411 operator, 311 is one of those services I've never really taken advantage of. Or, for that matter, understood. It offers itself as a government information hotline, but who needs that when you've got Julian Assange? At best guess, and knowing what I know about New Yorkers, I'd say 80% of the 311 queries deal with alternate side of the street parking, a New York obsession. The rest of the time it acts as a Hydra-headed Snow, Garbage, Potholes, Schools, and General Complaints hotline. Of which there are many.

I haven't availed of 311's services, or at least never dialed in a request myself. But it's not because I've never had cause to. Reflecting back on my ten years here as a New Yorker, I'd say I've accumulated my fair share of grievances, queries, and complaints that might have warranted a phone call -- if only I wasn't too demoralized to pick up the phone. A sampling of actual, real life situations to illustrate this point, you say? Glad you asked. A few highlights:

  • There is a large flying cockroach on my bookcase. It has just disappeared behind Goethe's Faust and the poems of Paul Celan. I am home alone and deathly afraid. Please advise.
  • The current tornado has just caused a portion of my roof to fly off. I can see the sky.
  • A family of hornets appears to have built a hive in the skylight of my bathroom. Can you help?
  • The drug dealer and/or highly impatient person who sits in a car outside the building and honks the horn repeatedly at various inconvenient hours of the night appears to be working on a site-specific noise piece. I should like to see it stopped, or at the very least, moved elsewhere. Yours, etc. Sleepless in Brooklyn
  • What's up with the giant salt pile on the waterfront? Do you realize it's blowing into people's eyes at an alarming rate?
  • My landlord sent over Laurel & Hardy to drain the radiators in my apartment. Black, boiling water is being released onto my bedspread, walls, and desk. Does this fall under your jurisdiction?
  • The worker currently installing my carbon monoxide detector is talking to me gregariously about his jail sentence. He's been incarceration-free for over 20 years. Ought I worry? P.S. He loves books.
I'm sure there are others, but you get the idea. In the meantime, if you have a city grievance story you'd like to share -- either one that required intervention or one you let slide -- I'd love to hear it. Even if 311 doesn't.


Jackie said...

Tea! This post made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Another thing that dear New Yorkers might do, upon having some kind of strange occurrence occur... is to call their local City Councilman. (Who knew, right?) Links to two of my favorite "I work for the councilman and get weird phone call stories" from my old blog, below.

Therese Cox said...

Aw man, you were a one-woman 311.