Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the expansion of the City’s 311 Customer Service Center to provide information and referrals about social services, creating a simple entry-point for New Yorkers seeking social services and fulfilling a promise he made in his 2005 re-election campaign. Beginning in May, New Yorkers will have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to a team of 30 specially-trained operators dedicated to helping callers with social service-related requests in what is now the nation’s largest social service information and referral call center. The Mayor also launched a seven-language public outreach campaign, which highlights the expanded services New Yorkers are now able to learn about – now they can “311 it.”
The Mayor was joined at the 311 Customer Service Center in Lower Manhattan by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs; United Way of America President and CEO Brian Gallagher; Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave; Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar; Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares; Department for the Aging Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago, and United Way of New York City Senior Vice President for Community Investment Jennifer Jones Austin – the City’s partner in the expanded 311 initiative.
“New York is lucky to have the largest network of non-profit health and human services agencies anywhere. But sometimes the very size of this network can make it difficult to connect to the services you need, and all too often the information you need is only available during business hours. We’re working to change all that,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “One of the great benefits of 311 is that it’s available all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if it can be such a useful and powerful tool in repairing potholes and fixing traffic lights, it could do an equally effective job helping people in need. We want that to be true for all the social service-related requests we get, too.”
“This complement to 311 continues to target some of the city’s most at-risk populations of children under age 5, disconnected youth and the working poor, as identified by the Center for Economic Opportunity,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Thirty call takers are specially trained to handle complex health and human services issues, and will respond to inquiries, as well as make the referrals to the appropriate city agency or one of our many community-based partners.”
New York City has created a unique model for social service information and referral, which in many other jurisdictions across the country is being developed through the 211 dialing code. Nearly 1,000 unique social services and 1,300 non-profit organizations are accessible every hour of every day by calling 311. Starting in May, callers seeking social services information and referral will be able to get this information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The expanded social services enhancements were developed based upon the areas of priority as identified by the City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which Mayor Bloomberg created to develop and implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg also unveiled a public outreach campaign, which highlights the new, expanded services New Yorkers are now able to learn about, but can also access them by calling 311. The campaign will feature the familiar 311 logo, introduce a new 311 tagline: “Your city. Your needs. Your number,” and tell New Yorkers they can, for example:
311 senior services
311 your noisy neighbor
311 graffiti cleanup
311 food assistance
311 domestic violence counseling, or
311 a tree request.
The new black and yellow ads, designed by NYC & Company, will appear in English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish, and will be displayed in bus shelters, on subways, street banners, and in other locations throughout the city. While most of the examples of what 311 can do appear in multiple languages, social programs like accessing immigration and naturalization services that are predominantly used by immigrants appear more often in the non-English ads. The City’s taxi cabs and official vehicles will receive new bumper stickers reflecting this campaign.
The United Way of America has taken the lead on the national 211 initiative; United Way of New York City has worked closely with the City to ensure its vast network of agencies and community-based organizations are accessible through 311.
“United Way is proud to partner with Mayor Bloomberg to make giving and getting assistance much easier in New York City,” said United Way of America President and CEO Brian Gallagher. “Public-private efforts like these are critical if we are to continue to find means of creating opportunities for a better life for all people.”
“United Way of New York City is so proud to be the City’s partner in bringing 211 services to New York City via the gateway of 311,” said United Way of New York City President and CEO Gordon J. Campbell. “Through expanded 311, New Yorkers will now be able to easily access nonprofits and nongovernmental social service agencies in all five boroughs, whether to obtain assistance and services for themselves, a loved one or a friend. Callers will be not only be given contact information, they will be assisted in accessing an enhanced set of appropriate services.”
“Back in 2002, Mayor Bloomberg envisioned a city more accessible than ever to its customers, and he launched 311 to make it happen,” said DoITT Commissioner Cosgrave. “Five years and 62 million calls later, 311 continues to make a difference for New Yorkers – from child care to senior services and everything in between. Just “311” what you’re looking for, and we’ll be here to answer the call.”
About United Way of New York City
United Way of New York City creates, leads and supports initiatives that bring measurable improvement to the lives of the city’s most vulnerable residents. They work to address the underlying causes of critical problems in five Action Areas — Education, Homelessness Prevention, Access to Health Care, Building Economic Independence, and Strengthening NYC Nonprofits-with the goal of creating lasting change. Throughout its work, they collaborate with neighborhood agencies, business, government, foundations, volunteers and others so that collectively the can achieve more than any single organization working alone.
About the 311 Customer Service Center
The 311 Customer Service Center was established in 2003 to give the public quick and easy access to all government services. All calls are answered by a live operator, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average time it takes to speak to a live operator is 5 seconds and 99 percent of the calls are answered within 30 seconds. An average of 41,000 calls come in to 311 daily, and translation service is provided in nearly 180 languages.