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What’s the 311?

January 17th, 2005 · No Comments · NYC

How many cities have a support phone number? I don’t know the answer, but I know my city does. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, there’s one number to call for any non-emergency city related issue. And it’s pretty easy to remember: 311.

I finally remember to use it, after one too many nights of listening to rabid car honkers stuck waiting for tunnel traffic outside my window. Generally speaking, my street is pretty quiet, but occasionally, typically between 5pm and 7pm, gridlock from a nearby tunnel entrance starts people honking. And I don’t mean “toot toot” type of honking, I mean choruses of drivers leaning on their horns.

I know New York City is a city of optimists. I know this because in spite of a track record of zero successes, New York City drivers are still convinced that copious use of the horn can cause traffic to disappear. Still, hope springs eternal in the streets of Manhattan that giant knots of standstill traffic are actually being caused by one unalert driver dozing away who nearly needs to be roused to attention with a well used honk.

Color me a cynic though, especially when all this hopefulness is blooming in a tedious cacophony but seven stories below my window. One of the more common types of call to 311 is a noise complaint, and I decided to put my tax dollars to use and give it a go.

I had no illusion that the call would yield results any time in the near future. But I have notice that the city has been slowly adjusting traffic patterns around my block to improve the merges into the tunnel, and it has helped the noise situation. I figure a 311 call would perhaps contribute to a statistic which might help continue this effort.

It took about three minutes in total to make the noise complaint. The operator was friendly and efficient, and basically helped me file a noise report to my local police precinct. I even got a tracking number which I can use to call to follow up on the complaint. While nothing may come of it all, it certainly made me feel better on two counts: for feeling like I was doing something about the problem and for seeing the city could provide a service like 311.

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