City Council Prepares To Take On Idling & Public Health Impacts

City Council Prepares To Take On Idling & Public Health Impacts
Photo: Ditmas Park Corner

This coming Tuesday, City Council members will discuss how to combat what seems like an unsolvable problem — pollution generated by idling cars and trucks.

The Council’s Environmental Protection committee will conduct an oversight hearing Tuesday regarding enforcement of the City’s anti-idling regulations. The committee will also discuss two pending pieces of legislation designed to strengthen the City’s ability to enforce existing laws.

Idling is on view every day across Ditmas Park, especially during hot weather when drivers turn on their air conditioning and stay in parked vehicles to handle errands, make phone calls and rest. The City can impose fines ranging from $100 to $2000 on drivers who idle their vehicles for more than 1 minute adjacent to schools, and 3 minutes in the rest of NYC.

This reporter has never seen an instance in which an idling driver was ticketed in Ditmas Park. On numerous occasions this summer I approached truck drivers who were part of film crews in Ditmas, asking if they could turn off the engines of their parked vehicles. I was usually unsuccessful.

Idling is viewed as a public health problem by the American Lung Association. Pregnant women and children are considered especially at risk. Exposures “during pregnancy and early childhood to roadside air pollution have been linked to higher rates of subsequent respiratory and developmental problems,” the Association reports.

Air pollution from idling engines contributes to elevated levels of smog and soot across the metro region, the Association says, releasing thousands of tons of sooty particles, smog-forming nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and green-house gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

These pollutants contribute to asthma, cancer and heart disease, the de Blasio administration adds, noting that one out of eight New Yorkers has been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives.

The City has included idling in its GreeNYC campaign, which puts forth ways New Yorkers can reduce pollution, improve public health, and combat climate change.


Leaving engines on also creates an estimated loss of $28 million annually for NYC drivers due to fuel loss and wear and tear on engines, the City says. Idling an engine for more than 10 seconds wastes more fuel than turning the engine off and on again, they maintain.

On Tuesday, the Council’s Environmental Protection committee, led by Costa G. Constantinides of Queens, will discuss legislation requiring that the hand-held computers used by NYPD traffic enforcement agents be capable of issuing tickets for violations of the City’s anti-idling law.

A separate piece of legislation would require the City’s Department of Environmental Protection to set up a page on its website so New Yorkers can submit videos of drivers violating the City’s anti-idling law.

The legislation under consideration states that if a video leads to a civil penalty for the violator, the person submitting the video is entitled to 50 percent of the penalty amount. The legislation would also raise the fine amounts for a first violation of the City’s anti-idling law by approximately 50 percent.

How do you think idling should be addressed — if at all — in our neighborhoods?


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