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How to fix anything in your NYC neighborhood

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From filing a noise complaint to getting a street tree planted on your block

It only takes one quality of life issue in New York City—a noisy bar opens on your block, a pothole in front of your building keeps getting bigger, or there’s non-stop construction behind your apartment—to make your living situation miserable.

Luckily, the city has several different avenues for reporting various apartment and neighborhood problems, most of which go through NYC311. The service was established in 2003, and serves as a one-stop shop for lodging complaints for non-emergency issues. While there are many, many city problems that fall under 311’s jurisdiction (from amusement park rides to X-ray machines), we’ve picked out some of the most common complaints, and how to get them fixed.

How do I file a noise complaint?

New York isn’t exactly a quiet place, but there are some types of noise—motorcycles revving, jackhammering from the construction site across the street, a dog that just won’t stop barking—that go above and beyond the normal sounds of the city. If you find yourself facing an aggravating, persistent issue, file a complaint through 311. You can report noise from your neighbors (or their pets), from the street or sidewalk, and from a vehicle, and you’ll receive a number to track the status of your complaint.

It’s good to know which types of noise actually warrant a complaint: Construction noise, for example, is permissible between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Bars and clubs must keep their noise “7 decibels over the ambient sound level, as measured on a street or public right-of-way 15 feet or more from the source, between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am,” according to the city. This is all spelled out in a guide to the city’s noise code. (If your issue is with a neighbor, it’s also good to remember that sometimes, having a face-to-face conversation is the best way to rectify a problem.)

If you want to lodge a complaint about airport noise, you can do so both through 311 and the Port Authority, which controls the city’s three airports.

What do I do if my apartment doesn’t have heat or hot water?

City law states that heat must be provided from October 1 to May 31, with several stipulations: During the day, if it’s consistently below 55 degrees, the inside temperature must be 68 degrees; at night, regardless of what the thermometer says outside, the inside temperature must be at least 62 degrees. (Hot water, however, must be provided 24/7/365.)

If you think that threshold isn’t being met, the first thing to do is call your landlord and make sure they know what’s going on. If they don’t fix the problem, record the temperature in your apartment using an indoor/outdoor thermometer (you can find plenty on Amazon), and then lodge a 311 complaint.

How do I get repairs made in my apartment?

If there’s a major issue in your apartment, like a broken refrigerator or a vermin infestation, the first thing you should do is let your landlord know. Provide documentation of the problem—when it began, how long it’s been going on, and photos of the issue—and be sure to report it as soon as possible. There are varying levels of housing violations, which provide clarification on how long you should give your landlord to fix a problem.

If your landlord hasn’t remedied the issue in a timely manner, you can lodge a complaint through 311, which can help address common housing violations (such as broken locks, plumbing issues, mold, and electrical issues). Violations are tracked by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and you can search for your address to see the status of your complaint, as well as any outstanding complaints.

If you live in a rent-regulated apartment, you can also file a complaint related to certain issues—like lack of a working toilet, or loss of heat and hot water—with the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal, and you may even be eligible for a rent reduction.

How do I get rid of bedbugs?

It’s every New Yorker’s worst nightmare: Bedbugs are a scourge that can be hard to notice in your apartment, and even harder to get rid of. But if you do find yourself infested, the first thing you should know is you’re not alone—and you’re also not responsible for remedying the issue. Yes, you’ll have to wash loads of laundry and maybe even replace your mattress, but your landlord is the one responsible for getting rid of the problem once and for all.

According to the Met Council on Housing, bedbugs are a Class B violation, so your landlord has 30 days to remedy the issue once it’s been reported; once the landlord has brought in an exterminator (who must be licensed by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation), they’re also responsible for stopping an infestation from happening again.

Landlords are also legally obligated to tell new tenants if a building or apartment has had bedbugs within the past year, so don’t be afraid to ask when you’re checking out an apartment.

How do I get the city to plant a street tree?

There are two ways to get more trees on your block: You can ask the city to plant one, or you can request a permit to do it yourself. In the first case, you can submit a request through the NYC Parks Department (which also handles requests for fallen or dead trees), and even include the type of tree you might want on your block—although Parks ultimately decides what gets planted where.

If you want to plant your own tree, you must first get a permit from the Parks Department, and then follow the city’s street tree standards—which dictate what types of trees may be used, what a tree bed can look like, and maintenance—when you actually plant the thing. Once you’ve gotten a final sign-off from Parks, you’re then responsible for maintaining the tree for the next two years.

What if I have bulk trash items to be picked up?

If you have a mattress or other large, unwieldy item you need to get rid of, you shouldn’t just leave it on your curb and hope that passersby will whisk it away. (That only works with books.)

For big items—mattresses, furniture, and anything that’s larger than four feet by three feet—you must make an appointment with the Department of Sanitation to have it removed. The city has a handy flier that outlines what you’ll need to do; the gist is, make an appointment with DSNY through 311, put the item on the curb the night before it’s due to be picked up, and bask in the knowledge that you’re disposing of waste properly.

How do I report potholes or other damage to streets and sidewalks?

The Department of Transportation has a one-stop resource for reporting damage to the city’s roadways, sidewalks, bike racks, and more. Most of the requests go through 311, but you can find more detailed information about what constitutes a defect, and who is responsible for fixing it. (You can also track the city’s progress on repairing potholes at The Daily Pothole.) Once the issue is reported, you’ll receive a case number that allows you to see the status of any potential repairs.