Blog Post #1: 311 Lead-related Service Requests

Data Source: 311 Service requests from 2010 to Present

How are recent 311 reports of lead distributed across New York City? In order to address this question, I mapped all available geocoded lead-related 311 complaints from 2017 to the present unto New York City. Each dot represents the location of a single report of lead made via phone or online. Red dots correspond to complaints that have been closed; the rare orange and yellow indicate complaints that are not yet closed but in progress or open, respectively. Filter complaints by the year in which the complaint was made by checking the corresponding boxes in the upper right corner. Hover over any spot to see the address and a description of the service request.

The audience for this visualization is primarily the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the city agency responsible for responding to 311 reports of lead. Viewing the geographical distribution of lead-related service requests could help the DEP identify areas of concern and perhaps inform preemptive interventions. For example, residents in areas with a high concentration of dots could be provided with lead testing kits without having to make a service request. This would allow the DEP to more instances of lead before they become an issue, and promote trust in government services/the DEP. Community-based organizations could also make use of these data to advocate for more government resources and support for buildings or areas with a high density of lead service requests.

The design choices I was able to make, and the research question I was able to address were ultimately limited by the content of 311 data set. I intended to use the dates in which the service request was created and completed to calculate the length of time it took to resolve a service request…I wanted to see if there was any relationship between the time it takes to resolve a complaint and geography. However, due to a lack of familiarity with the data set and understanding of DEP operations, I made the faulty assumption that the resolution of the service request indicated that the lead issue had been resolved. I quickly discovered that 99% of complaints were resolved within a one day period because the service request were documented as requests for lead testing kits, and not support resolving the existence of the lead itself. There is no way to determine if the test came back positive for lead, or if appropriate steps were taken to minimize the risk of lead exposure. Thus the service requests are a better metric of resident concern than of the existence of lead.

Overall, the information available in this 311 data set that could provide insight into how lead complaints are made and resolved in New York City was more limited than anticipated. I chose to include street addresses in the tool tip to make the location more explicit to those familiar with the area, and the descriptor so the viewer could clarify the nature of the complaint, though 99% of them were closed requests for test kits, as per I selected the color red for the vast majority of dots because red is generally of indicative of danger, and lead is a hazardous material, particularly for children.

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