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The right to clean air and water, and to a healthful environment may be a recent addition to the state’s constitution, but the issue of idling vehicles has been around for years. Now Community Board 4 is demanding that the Department of Environmental Protection increase the fines imposed for idling — currently seen by the big-name offenders as “a cost of doing business”.
In a November 9 letter addressed to DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, the board demanded increasing idling fines on commercial trucks and buses from the current $350 to $800 and tripling the penalty for a third offense from $600 to $1,800.
“In an analysis of 20,000 idling complaints (submitted between May 2019 and May 2021) in New York City, the zip code 10036 in Hell’s Kitchen had the highest number of complaints with 14.23% of the citywide total. The following locations were in the top twenty: W42nd Street (8/9), W40th Street (8/9), both related to the jitney curbside terminal on W42nd Street, and W41st Street (8/9) and W39th Street and Dyer Avenue, where bus staging is located,” the letter — signed by the board’s Chairman Lowell Kern and Transportation Committee co-chairs Christine Berthet and Dale Corvino — stated.
“In the City at large, the worst offenders include ConEd, Verizon, Spectrum, FedEx, Amazon, Go New York Tours, Fuji Bus, and Greyhound Lines. These very large players consider the current cost of fines as a cost of doing business,” they wrote. “At a minimum DEP should make sure these operators pay more attention to our health. Reducing idling is a simple way to do so.”
However, some think they should be calling for even higher penalties. The research cited was completed by activist Jeff Novich, who told Streetsblog that he approves CB4’s demand, but thinks they should be asking for much more. “The fines should be 10 to 50 times their current amounts in order to properly re-align company interests with neighborhood health goals,” he said. “I just don’t see these amounts being a big enough deterrent (relative to their revenues) for large companies to retrain drivers or get electric trucks or switch to cargo bikes for deliveries.” Amazon has recently created a Hell’s Kitchen hub for cargo bike delivery on 11th Avenue.
There’s also an issue with the way the City currently enforces commercial idling. The system is based on citizen reports — as promoted through the Billy Idol-backed “Billy Never Idles” campaign — which is a “losing battle” according to Novich, “without a dedicated team of salaried enforcement agents who take their jobs seriously in relentless application of idling laws.”
According to Streetsblog, the DEP acknowledged receipt of CB4’s letter, which is currently under review at the agency.
We recently reported that CB4 co-chair and Hell’s Kitchen activist Christine Berthet has been recommended to join the congestion pricing Traffic Mobility Review Board.