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Legislation Would Require 311 To Allow For Social Media Complaints In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Disgruntled New Yorkers call 311 60,000 times every day – complaining about everything from unshoveled sidewalks to noisy neighbors.

But as CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, the practice is moving beyond the old-fashioned telephone call. One local lawmaker now plans to require 311 to offer social media solutions.

For New Yorkers in need, 311, of course, is the answer indeed.

“If there’s a burning building, call 911. If there’s a burning question, call 311,” one New Yorker said.

But getting through to 311 is not always the easiest thing to do.

“It’s a disaster, you know,” said Robert Harnick of Manhasset, Long Island. “I’ve called many times trying to find out the specific department and they never have the numbers.”

So many people take to social media, airing their complaints or posting question to 311 on Twitter and Facebook – where they are often directed to call 311.

Just Wednesday morning, 311 responded to questions about snow removal with a tweet saying complaints about snowy and icy sidewalks were not being accepted.

Bronx City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-15th) is introducing legislation designed to change that.

“My message to city government is to get with the program,” Torres said. “It’s that the social media revolution is here to stay whether you like it or not.”

The bill would require city agencies to have five social media platforms, and to accept communication from the public.

The idea for the bill came in August, after City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito tweeted a photo of a broken traffic light in her neighborhood. The Department of Transportation responded that Mark-Viverito should call 311.

“Well, that’s not really a response that’s helpful to anyone. I think you have to have people there who respond in a way that actually answers the question, no?” Torres said. “If that can happen to an elected official, that can happen to anyone. And the challenge should fall on city agencies to accommodate our constituents and to figure out some means to accept complaints through social media.”

A spokesman with the Mayor’s office told CBS2: “This legislation is under review. 311 now takes over 60 types of complaints on twitter and counting. We work hard to make sure New Yorkers can engage with the City in these digital spaces.”

But while the city does respond to social media requests fairly quickly, many times, the response is nothing more than “call 311.”

The fight of the so-called Social Media Legislation continues on Thursday, when Councilman Torres will introduce the bill.

Torres said he plans to tweak the bill’s language, requiring agencies to respond to the public in a timely manner.

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