Guest Op-Ed: Building a better 3-1-1 system

September 30, 2013 Editorial Staff
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How many times have you tried to cram garbage into an overflowing city trash can? How often have you had to side-step litter in a subway or park? And let’s be honest, do you ever even expect a public bathroom to be clean?

In any of these situations, wouldn’t it be nice to fire off a quick complaint on your smartphone directly to the people in charge of fixing the problem?

Together with the tech startup PublicStuff, we’ve made it possible with our new New York City 311+ app. This “socially connected” app not only allows New Yorkers to report non-emergency requests to the city’s 311 system, it also allows residents to write reviews evaluating the condition of government services.

This means New Yorkers can add their voice to the city’s policy-making process by completing brief surveys about the condition of subway platforms, playgrounds, and libraries in their neighborhoods.

Once a review is submitted, NYC 311+ forwards it to the city agency or authority responsible for oversight and maintenance. A subway review gets seen by the MTA; playground reviews are submitted to the Parks Department; and potholes complaints go to the Department of Transportation.

Similar to popular social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, NYC 311+ allows users to give thumbs up to parks in good repair or thumbs down playgrounds in need of upkeep. All requests and reviews are public and viewable on an interactive map. This includes everything from potholes, noise complaints, downed trees, graffiti, and more.

Aside from the social-networking component, NYC 311+ offers several improvements that make it more versatile than the city’s original 311 app. Perhaps most important, NYC 311+ is multilingual, with more than 17 languages, whereas the original app is English-only. This opens up civic engagement for a wide swath of non-English-speaking New Yorkers who have had difficulty communicating their concerns to the city.

New Yorkers are a passionate, opinionated bunch, and 311+ is a great way to connect people so they can work to improve their neighborhoods together. We live in an age where the latest tech innovations have the potential to capture the attention of millions. In a city of 8 million people, city government needs to respond to the needs of the people rapidly and effectively.

The NYC 311+ app can be downloaded for free at the iPhone and Android stores. The user-friendly website was launched to compliment the NYC 311+ app. The site, which also leverages the PublicStuff platform, features all of the functionality of the mobile app for desktop users. Get the NYC 31+ app, and start improving our city today!


John C. Liu

John C. Liu is the New York City Comptroller

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