Public Policy: Calling City Hall
How do New Yorkers make contact with the City government?

In spring of 2003 the government of the City of New York launched a new telephone service; 311. New Yorkers can call 311 instead of 911 for non-emergency issues.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers call 311 for a wide range issues and the City is able to measure the service's success by tracking the outcomes of each call.

This new approach to citizen communication has spread throughout the country as more cities have begun to adopt 311 systems.


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Task One

Answer the following questions using the resources provided below:

  1. What is 311's purpose?

  2. Have you ever called 311? If so, what for?

  3. Describe how 311 has streamlined New Yorkers' ability to communicate with the city government.

  4. Why is the use of the 311 service good for the 911 service?

  5. What makes 311 easy to use?

Task Two

Develop a detailed list of 10 items you would call 311 for. Be sure to include the following for each item:

  1. Of the 10 things you list, be mindful of the role, responsibilities and possibilities of 311.
  2. Explain why you would call 311 for each item in your list

  3. Describe what you would expect to happen after you called 311 for each item in your list


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Process (Things to think about while doing this assignment)
  • Which city government agencies should respond to a particular public policy issue?

  • How well are they carrying out their responsibilities?

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History of New York City's Cabaret Laws

The basic facts about 311

The official 311 'Fact Sheet'

Profile of New York's 311

NY1 Story on 311

311 call centers around the country

A review of New York's 311 service

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 Evaluation (How you will be graded)

Your answers to the questions in Task One should demonstrate that you used the resources provided.

The answers should be written in your own words.

Your list in Task Two should demonstrate the following;

  • A comprehensive understanding of all the types of calls 311 handles

  • An ability to identify items to call 311 about

  • A recognition of 311's importance.

  • A demonstration that 311 is an effective means of communicating citizens' needs and concerns with their local government.


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State Standard 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4, National Standards II, III, and V

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  Updated: 01/05/04