311 The Necessary Evil

Which 311 would you rather be on the phone with?? (Source: TV Tropes, Google Image Search)



SO I ALREADY TOLD YOU ABOUT HOW TO CALL YOUR ELECTEDS’ OFFICES. Well, our readers in New York City are more inclined to call 311 for their woe is me tales about non-emergency local issues. If you’ve got a problem and you’re not about to be robbed, murdered, [cardiac] arrested, [heart] attacked, or witnessing these popular urban activities through your window-blinds, then you’re probably calling 311. 311 will also tell you about school/municipal closings, road conditions, and other City-related things. I digress! Here are some tips on how to make the most of your call when you’ve got PROBLEMS:


Patience is key. There will be a waiting time to speak with a representative. Take a deep breath. Read a book. Play minesweeper on the computer. Write an email to your grandson. Remember that the first person you speak to does not work for an agency. They are routing your call. They will not solve your problem; they will route your problem to someone who could have a faint idea as to how to solve it. Sometimes you will be connected with an agency person afterwards, sometimes not. It depends on how many people have been laid off (yeah, that’s why you have to wait four hours at the DMV). Remember that morale is low for this reason. HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO BE NICE TO THESE PEOPLE?


If the problem has to do with something in your apartment, leave your apartment number and contact information. Without this, the Department of Buildings or whoever could come by and claim that there was no access to the issue if they’re confronted with a row of buzzers. Same thing if there’s something in a common area of your building. You want to come down and make sure the inspector gets access to the issue (your management may attempt to shoo them away).


Be insanely specific about the location, i.e. “Elevator A broken in rear lobby behind mailboxes” and not just “elevator broken.” Inspectors will not figure out your problems for you. Same goes for other issues. “Pothole on 23rd and 3rd” needs to be “six inch deep pothole on the northeast corner of 23rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn on the 23rd Street side, about seven feet from the curb.”


Be specific about the best time to inspect. Is there illegal construction going on? The inspectors need to know WHEN. Give them some sort of time range or they will come whenever is convenient for them, which means they could close your case and it will take another eternity for someone to come out and deal with it.


Note about noise problems: when you call 311 and specify that there is a noise issue, they will send the Department of Environmental Protection out to deal with the issue. DEP will come with a decibel-reader to see if the noise is a dangerous level. Rowdy NYU students at the bar downstairs or your neighbor’s stomping upstairs will not register as dangerously high noise. Your best bet with these issues is to say that it violates your Warrant of Habitability, and work with the noise-causers directly. Speak to your landlord if it’s an issue that can be fixed by better insulation or by dealing with the offending tenant. Remember that if there is noise from a domestic dispute, fight outside, etc, that’s a 911 call right there.


Calling 311 can feel completely pointless, especially when they give you that case number and promise to follow up–the more numbers involved in a phone call, the more pointless it feels. But trust me, you need to hold onto that number for dear life. Ask the representative what agency you need to follow up with. Some agencies have ways of following up on complaints on the World Wide Web. If your problem isn’t addressed in a coupla weeks, you’re going to want to follow up with your local electeds to get a status check. The ‘crats won’t do shite without a 311 case number to follow up on.


311 is like a report card for the agencies. If they do not send an inspector/officer/investigator/what-EVA to the scene, then it looks bad for THEM. This means you should get all of your neighbors, or others experiencing the problem to call 311 and report the issue in the same words that you just used.

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