Here’s a really nice bit of writing from Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Village Voice, here writing for the New York Times.
That bathroom was the worst I had ever seen in New York. It looked like a hurricane had hit it (I’m from Florida; I’ve seen a water-logged bathroom after a hurricane, and Lorillard was just as bad). And after I saw it, I was really shaken. My mind was racing: I started to fantasize about taking Mayor Bloomberg to visit that bathroom, and forcing him to explain to me how this could have happened. It felt unacceptable — fundamentally, jarringly so.
A few days later, I pulled the building’s violation report. The landlord was supposed to have certified that the bathroom was fixed two days before, but hadn’t bothered. (It would take four more months, until April of this year — April! — for the city to complete the repairs.) I also took a look at its 311 records. Two hundred and sixty two calls had been made by Lorillard residents that year. Daniel, the new father, did in fact register 12 311 complaints on a single day in May; 11 on a single day in June. Justin and his mother, on the other hand, had made only one 311 call — back in January, to report the broken sink pipes and the collapsing ceiling in the bathroom.
Indeed, when I would ask a tenant if they called 311, I would hear either a Daniel response — “I called 311 until I was blue in the face” — or a response that mirrors the behavior of Justin’s family — “I don’t call 311 anymore. Because I gave up.” In a certain way, both responses are saying the same thing. They are expressions of the demoralization and resignation that people carry with them. In the social universe I inhabit, there’s such a strong belief that you can change things, you can make things happen. But in the Bronx, behind too many of the doors I knocked on, people’s faces are bereft of that sense.
Dwoskin mixes examples of criminal malfeasance and personal woe with 311 records. It’s an arresting mixture, and well worth reading in its entirety.
Not to crack overly wise, but Mr Ford had some wisdom to offer on this very topic: