Noise is city’s all-time top 311 complaint

311 has logged more than 3.1 million noise complaints, due to construction, loud events and other noise-prone activities, since 2003
311 has logged more than 3.1 million noise complaints, due to construction, loud events and other noise-prone activities, since 2003 Photo Credit: Karen Walker

New Yorkers certainly have had a lot to gripe about to 311 during the last 11 years, especially when it comes to noise.

The phone line and website that connects people with more than 6,000 city agencies and services has logged more than 190 million complaints since its inception in March 2003, according to data provided to amNewYork by the city. And noise complaints lead the charts, with more than 3.1 million calls since 2003.

Shaleem Thompson, a 311 communications analyst, couldn’t provide more specifics about the types of noise complaints the city gets but acknowledged that many people have problems with construction noise, in particular.

The other top complaints and inquiries since 2003 were 2.7 million calls for landlord maintenance issues, 2.64 million calls for MTA information, and 2.62 million follow-up calls for miscellanous complaints. The data provided were through March 11.

So far this year, the various snowstorms and cold snaps have been significant factors in driving people to file 7.5 million complaints, according to Thompson. By comparison, there were 22.3 million 311 calls, Web visits and text sessions in 2013, and 22.8 million in 2012.

Thompson couldn’t predict whether the 2014 surge would continue when the weather warms up. “Certain things drive call volumes, especially snow and storm levels,” she said. “During the summer, when it’s hot, there could be peaks, and during hurricane season there could be peaks, too.”

Last year, the city passed a law that mandated the online availability of all data. Thompson said the legislation has helped make 311 more transparent and has given a clearer glimpse of the state of New York City.

Several developers have created apps and websites that visualize the complaints in fun, interactive ways.

Just last week, Microsoft launched HereHere.co, a website that generates facts about neighborhoods based on the 311 data. The site’s graphics for Forest Hills, for example, include an icon of a pet collar because of a slight increase in complaints about dogs being walked without a leash.

Senior researcher Kati London, who oversees the project, said New Yorkers are always intrigued by the quirks of their communities.

The site has leaderboards that rank communities based on their 311 data, and there’s a place for visitors to leave comments.

London, who worked with several community boards while developing the project, added that the map isn’t intended to stereotype neighborhoods, but to create conversations.

“When they see these categories, we want the conversation to be about everything. Even, ‘Hey I live in this neighborhood and it’s nothing like this,'” she said.

Thompson said 311 this year will streamline the service through improvements on its website and app.

“What 311 has been good with is meeting customers’ requests with their needs,” Thompson said. “The younger generation wants things done quickly and we want to meet that need.”