311 Service Requests
First launched in 2003, New York’s 311 Customer Service Center (known as “311”) allows New York City residents to receive information, register complaints and access non-emergency services.
Today, the 311 system fields more than 42 million individual contacts per year – more than any municipal non-emergency line in the nation.
While both 311 and cooperating agencies attempt to provide appropriate responses to complaints in reasonable time, they do not always succeed.
Analyzing the problem proves challenging. Publicly available data on 311 requests indicate that complaint resolutions are not always reported accurately.
For a surprising number of requests, issues are not addressed and resolutions stated by 311 are vague or inadequate.
Top 311 Requests
% of All Requests
All Noise (16.9%)
Heat / Hot Water (8.6%)
Large Bulky Item Collection (7.0%)
Illegal Parking (6.3%)
Blocked Driveway (5.3%)
Street Condition (3.9%)
Unsanitary Condition (3.2%)
Street Light Condition (2.9%)
Water System (2.8%)
Top 311 Request Types 2018
Top 311 Agency Responders
311 Request by Agency % of All Requests
NYC Police Department NYPD (29.0%)
Department of Housing Preservation and Development HPD (23.0%)
Department of Sanitation DSNY (15.4%)
Department of Transportation DOT (11.2%)
Department of Environmental Protection DEP (7.4%)
Department of Buildings DOB (3.6%)
Department of Parks and Recreation Parks (3.2%)
Department of Finanance DOF (2.1%)
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene DOHMH (1.9%)
Taxi and Limousine Commission TLC (0.8%)
Top 311 Responding Agencies by Volume 2018
Longest 311 Response Time by Issue Type
Longest Average Response Time by Per Issue in Days 2018
- Dead/Dying Tree: 89 Days
- For Hire Vehicle Complaint: 72 Days
- Graffiti: 69 Days
- New Tree Request: 62 Days
- Food Establishment: 60 Days
- Taxi Complaint: 51 Days
- Illegal Tree Damage: 47 Days
- Special Projects Inspection Team (SPIT): 41 Days
- Vacant Lot: 37 Days
- School Maintenance: 36 Days
- Plumbing: 32 Days
311 Response Types
- Did Not Observe: The complaint reported was not observed
- Fixed: The issue has been resolved
- No Action Taken: The investigating agency either determines a complaint was not warranted, or does not act beyond the investigation
- Ambiguous: The resolution description offers no clarity as to whether the issue was resolved or not
- Duplicate: The complaint is marked as a duplicate of a previous complaint
- Ongoing: The resolution description indicates the issue is under investigation/in progress
- Violations Issued: The investigating agency issued a violation
- Wrong Agency: The complaint was forwarded to an incorrect agency.
Did Not Observe (24.8%)
No Action Taken (18.7%)
Violation Issued (4.8%)
Wrong Agency (0.8%)
311 Response Types
Cases Created 2018
311 Responses by Agency
Cases Created 2018
Top Volume Agency 311 Responses
Agencies have different ways of denoting a resolution to a case. Some agencies provide ambiguous text regarding closing out a case, while others provide a rich set of accurate information.
Clarity and specificity allows for a quality analysis of the issues that the agency faces, while inaccurate information leaves the public wondering how agencies are truly resolving resident problems.
Peculiar Response Times
For example, 20% of complaints about rodents were reportedly addressed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) before the complaint was submitted.
Some agencies, like Department of Transportation (DOT), close out cases quickly at first, then experience a slow down, and finally rush to close out cases. In particular, street sign complaints are mostly resolved within two weeks and then an unusual spike occurs near the six month (180 day) mark where nearly 10% of cases are resolved.
Rodent Cases: Negative Time
23% of Rodent Cases
Street Sign Cases: 6 Months to Close
Sometimes, agencies do not clarify the outcomes of the complaints.
Nearly all complaints forwarded to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) are “closed”, but the resolution descriptions imply an ongoing case.
The most common resolution associated with a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) complaints is: “The taxi and limousine commission will contact you within 14 days to confirm your complaint details. Please note your service request number for future reference.”
While these complaints may have been addressed, there is no way to know based on the stated resolution. The actual resolutions are never posted.
Also problematic are the ambiguous responses many agencies use in place of concrete resolution descriptions. Roughly 46% (134,000) of complaints handled by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2018 resulted in an ambiguous description.
TLC Cases: Always Ongoing
100% of Cases
Transportation Cases: Ambiguous
46% of Cases
A common vague response from the Department of Transportation (DOT) states: “Service request status for this request is available on the department of transportation’s website. Please click the ‘Learn More’ link below.”
For rodents complaints through the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the most common response is: “The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will review your complaint to determine appropriate action. Complaints of this type usually result in an inspection. Please call 311 in 30 days from the date of your complaint for status.”
Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has the most substantive responses amongst the top responding agencies, with over 95% of case responses either “Fixed”,”Did Not Observe”, “No Action Taken”, “No Violation”, or “Violations Issued”.
Vague, misleading, or inaccurate resolution descriptions mean it can be nearly impossible to track whether an issue has been resolved.
For feedback, comments, and questions please email Data@council.nyc.gov.
Created by the NYC City Council Data Team.