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Noise leads list of 311 complaints over past 11 years

Ice floes fill the Hudson River as the

Ice floes fill the Hudson River as the Lower Manhattan skyline is seen during sunset in New York City on Jan. 9, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Getty Images

New Yorkers certainly have had a lot to gripe about to 311 over the past 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 city data. And noise complaints lead the charts with 3.1 million calls since 2003.

Shaleem Thompson, a 311 communications analyst, couldn't give more specifics about the types of noise complaints the city gets, but acknowledged that many people have problems with construction noise. The other top complaints and inquiries since 2003 are: landlord maintenance issues with 2.7 million calls, MTA information with 2.64 million calls and 2.62 million follow-up calls for miscellaneous complaints.

The data provided was through March 11.

So far this year, 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 if 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 both helped make 311 more transparent and given a clearer glimpse of the state of the city.

Several developers and creative minds have made apps and websites that visualize the complaints in fun, interactive ways. Just last week, Microsoft launched (not .com), a website that generates facts about neighborhoods based on the 311 data.

Forest Hills, for example, displays an icon of a pet collar because it saw a slight increase in complaints of dogs being walked without a leash.

Senior researcher Kati London, who oversees the project, said New Yorkers are always intrigued by quirks of their community. "What we are looking to do is try to drive conversation to a neighborhood," she said.

The site has leader boards that rank communities based on their 311 data, and 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. The younger generation wants things done quickly and we want to meet that need," she said.

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