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311 gets socially connected

John C. Liu | 9/19/2013, 5:10 p.m.
John Liu

How many times have you tried to cram garbage into an overflowing city trash can? How often have you had to sidestep 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 NYC 311+ app. This “socially connected” app not only allows New Yorkers to report non-emergency requests to the city’s 311 system, but 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. Subway reviews get seen by the MTA, playground reviews are submitted to the Parks Department and pothole complaints go to the Department of Transportation.

Similar to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, NYC 311+ allows users to give a thumbs-up to parks in good repair or a thumbs-down to playgrounds in need of upkeep. All requests and reviews are public and viewable on an interactive map. This includes everything from potholes and downed trees to noise complaints, 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 importantly, 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 NYC 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 technological innovations have the potential to capture the attention of millions. In a city of 8 million people, the 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 NYC311Plus.com 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 311+ app and start improving our city today!

John C. Liu is the New York City Comptroller.