The 311 hotline is supposed to be an easy way for New Yorkers to connect to the city’s vast bureaucracy. It was meant as one-stop shopping; a single place to direct questions and complaints to countless city agencies and more importantly, get answers. To many though, New York City’s 311 system is the telephone equivalent of the ‘walk buttons’ placed on traffic signal poles at crosswalks; a placebo that isn’t wired to do anything except provide an illusion of control.
After a fire caused both damage to the roof and the evacuation of Marine Park I.S. 278 Tuesday, faculty, staff and parents were instructed by school officials, as well as Councilman Lewis Fidler’s office, to call 311 after 11PM for information on where classes were to be held the next day. One school employee told BK Southie that she had contacted 311 at the time specified, only to be told that no information was available and to call the following morning at 5AM. When she woke up extra early and called at 5, she was informed that details on the school’s opening were not available and to call again at 6. At 6AM 311 phone agents were still not providing any information. Some of her colleagues at the school, as well as parents, report being told by the city’s customer service hotline that classes were being held at an alternate location, P.S. 207. This resulted in late passes for students and added travel time for workers who heeded the city’s advice, arriving late to I.S. 278 which, as it turned out, was open.
Many say 311′s efficacy depends on which city department you’re seeking help with. Overall, the results I’ve had with it tend to be mixed at best. What are your thoughts? Have your experiences with 311 been positive or negative?