Effectively prioritizing the needs of the 150,000+ people living in District 7 of New York City is by no means an easy task for a City Councilmember and his staff. However, with the advent of NYC Open Data, we can get a more detailed breakdown of the common complaints in a district using real-time data that is freely available to the public. This report aims to support the policy research and development pipeline for Council District 7 by providing the following information:


We will be using a public dataset that contains “All 311 Service Requests from 2010 to present”, which is made freely available in adherence to Local Law 47 of 2005. You may download the dataset from NYC Open Data by clicking here.

Now place yourself in the shoes of the newly elected Councilmember of District 7. You are interested in tackling unsolved, widespread policy issues in order to increase your visibility in the community and achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. Given this focus, we filter the data, limiting the number of observations to open complaints created after 1/1/14, the beginning of your term.

Moreover, since we are most interested in issues that affect Council District 7, we also filter complaints by zip codes that fall within district lines - namely, 10025, 10027, 10030, 10031, 10032. While this is not a perfect method to isolate District 7 issues (we could refine our approach by clipping observations that do not fall within the District 7 shapefile, this is sufficient for our ends.

All in all, this brings the total number of 311 complaints in District 7 from 1/1/14 to 7/15/14 to 10,926 complaints.

Summary Statistics

First, let’s group by complaint type and see what our top 10 hits are:

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Paint/Plaster, Unsanitary Conditions, Plumbing - these are chracteristic housing & building issues, which is likely overrepresented. After all, this is NYC we’re talking about here. Let’s check out the number of complaints by agency. If our suspicions are correct, we should see a huge spike for the Commission on Housing and Preservation (HPD), the agency that deals with these issues:

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Almost 7 out of 10 complaints are HPD-related! That warrants a breakdown. Let’s look at HPD complaints based on each individual Descriptor, a variable that offers more details on the complaint.

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Wall, Ceiling, Floor - much of these complaints are regarding structural damage to places of residence. Pests and Mold are also common complaints, which falls under the Unsanitary Conditions category.

Housing & building issues are notoriously tough to deal with when creating policy solutions. Short of fixing it up ourselves and pressuring the landlords, there is little a Councilmember can do to help on a macro level. If our goal is to identify actionable issues to build policy around, then perhaps it would be better to revisit our top hits after filtering out the HPD-related issues:

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Ah, more variety! Rodents - an issue perpetuated by poor sanitation and associated with poor quality-of-life - is apparently a huge problem in our district. Also listed in our top hits are out-of-service elevators and complaints regarding graffiti. If we can identify these problem locations (which will we do at the end of this report), we can earn some easy yet massively effective wins for District 7.

However, let’s take a closer look at our top hit: Noise. This is a pretty broad category. What kind of noise are people complaining about?