What Are People In Brooklyn Community Board 5 Complain About?

The Real Deal takes a look at the calls made to NYC’s 311 hotline over the past year. (Credit: iStock)

[ This project is an assignment for Urban Informatics I taught by Professor Boyeong Hong, GSAPP, Columbia University, in Fall 2020. ]

‘New York City 311 service requests since 2010’ is an open data from NYC Open Data Website, including more than 24 million raw 311 service request every day since 2010. New York City 311 Data has been an important tool for planners and city government to discover problems existing in the city and issues people care about the most. Thus, analyzing the 311 data usually reveals interesting trend and provides insights in urban planning.

Methods and Toolkits

Large dataset like the 311 service requests are difficult to download and open directly in Python, thus, I use the Socrata APIs to load the data. Other toolkit used in this project include Pandas, Numpy, Matplotlib, Urllib and Seaborn. These tools will be used in the data analysis and visualization process.

Research Questions

For this project, I choose to analyze a sample of 500,000 data entries of 311 complaints using Python. I am interested in complaints located in Brooklyn with a focus on Brooklyn Community Board 5, which is the study area for my capstone project. There are four specific research questions that I would like to explore:

(1) How many complaints in total does Brooklyn CB 5 have since 2010?

(2) How does BK CB 5 do compare to other community boards in Brooklyn?

(3) What are the top complaints types in CB 5?

(4) What are trends in the number of complaints recorded in CB 5 before and after the outbreak of Covid-19 (2019 vs. 2020)?

BK CB 5 Total Complaints

To get a better sense of the distribution of 311 data, I first counted the total number of complaints by borough in the sample. The table below shows that Brooklyn (7,159,249) received most complaints since 2010 and the number almost double the total complaints received in Manhattan/New York. This might not be so surprising because Brooklyn is the most populous borough in New York City. Brooklyn Community Board 5 is located in the Southeast corner of Brooklyn, right by the bay and the county line of Queens. BK CB 5 received a total of 484,695 complaints in the sample since 2010.

Credit: Angel Yin, (2020). Urban Informatics I, Professor Boyeong Hong, GSAPP, Columbia University

Comparison to Other Community Boards

There are 18 community boards in Brooklyn. Comparing to other community boards, CB 5 are within the top three CBs with the most complaints received since 2010. That means the total number of complaints CB 5 received since 2010 is considered high in New York City.

Credit: Angel Yin, (2020).

Top Complaints in BK CB 5

There are 61 complaint types being recorded in BK CB 5. Among them, Noise — Residential (49,483) received most complain, followed by blocked driveway (32,034), heat and hot water issue (26,566), illegal Parking (20,874) and plumbing (18,819). Therefore, noise is really a big problem throughout the city that government should pay attention.

Credit: Angel Yin, (2020).

Influence of Covid-19

Till October, 2020, CB 5 received 42,452 complaints. In 2020, the highest complaints tend to be clustered around summer time which are June to August. If we look at the graph of 2019, the highest complaints are clustered around summer time but earlier, which were May and June. It is interesting to see that complaints are higher in summer than in winter. One possible reason is that human activities tend to be more dynamic in summer when temperatures are higher than in winter where it is cold.

From the two graphs below, we could also easily see the influence of the pandemic. From October 2019 to April 2020, the number of complaints remained low. And if we compare January to April in 2020 with the same month in 2019, it is clear that months in 2020 have a low number of complaints. These months were the time Covid-19 hit the US and New York City in lockdown.

Credit: Angel Yin, (2020).

Implications and Suggestions

The analysis conducted in this project suggests Brooklyn CB 5 should pay attention to noise problems. It also suggests that there is a weak correlation between temperature and number of complaints but a strong correlation between human activities and number of complaints. These are interesting findings and maybe could provide planners creative insights. For example, if building a 15 minutes life cycle could reduce human activities, could that help reduce complaints in Brooklyn CB 5?

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MS. UP, GSAPP, Columbia University

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Angel Yin

Angel Yin

MS. UP, GSAPP, Columbia University

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