Sweet dissatisfaction: using map art to understand NYC’s most common complaints

Scroll this

Media artist Dietmar Offenhuber has used data generated by two years of 311 complaints to create an interactive map of New Yorkers’ most common complaints. (h/t to Curbed and Atlantic Cities.)

The 311 line is New York City’s dedicated government information service line, through which residents can access program information and also submit complaints and requests. Offenhuber divided the complaints into three types: litter (blue), graffiti (red), and noise (green), and as the map’s key indicates, areas of overlapping complaint can be identified by intermediate colors. (As elegant as it is for design purposes, displaying just three types of complaint probably misses the full spectrum of likely 311 calls.)

Complaints are mapped onto a block-by-block grid of the city, creating a colorful diagram of each area’s most frequent problem. Beyond simply being a beautiful rendering of civic frustration, the map can be used as an education tool to highlight neighborhood-specific concerns. For example, high-traffic Manhattan appears in green, as noise complaints are the most common in the borough. The Bronx and much of Queens seem to suffer primarily from graffiti problems, and Staten Island and much of Brooklyn are bothered by litter. The map also allows viewers to zoom in, revealing hidden idiosyncrasies. For example, some major streets in Harlem share the problem of litter; Chinatown too suffers from serious graffiti issues.  You can even zoom in to see what problems are plaguing your block and neighborhood.

Check out some of Offenhuber’s other green-minded work, such as “Trash Tracking,” at his website.

Image: Dietmar Offenhuber