Car Idle Time Cut
Intro 631, sponsored by Councilmember John Liu, cuts down the amount of time drivers are allowed to idle near schools from three minutes to one minute. A second bill, Intro. 40-A, sponsored by Councilmember David Yassky, expands enforcement power by allowing agents of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Sanitation to issue idling summonses, appearance tickets and violation notices. The bill also gives citizens the ability to report truck violations. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated he plans to sign both bills, which will take effect after 90 days.
The P.S. 122 students began working on the project last year. They divided into four groups and stated the issue, researched current laws, proposed new laws and developed an action plan. The project culminated in an appearance by student Eugene Varnedoe testifying at a city council hearing January 20 as 11 of his classmates watched and listened. "Every breath of air children take of the toxic fumes emitted by buses idling in school zones can damage their lungs, make them dizzy, even nauseous, can lead to asthma and for those with asthma, to even worse effects," Varnedoe told the councilmembers assembled in the City Council chamber at City Hall. Research from other sources backed him up. According to the Asthma Free School Zone, one in every four children in New York City has asthma, well over the national average.
"New York City has one of the highest asthma rates among children in the country," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on January 28, when the council passed both bills. "Today's legislative actions take greater steps to improve air quality and public health by enforcing idling regulations and reducing idling- -particularly around our city's schoolchildren."
"Anti-idling laws have been in effect for many years, but unfortunately, excessive idling has become pervasive. Idling vehicles unnecessarily pollute the air," Liu said. "Intro. 631-A will help clean the air in the immediate vicinity of schools. It is not intended to simply reduce idling time from three minutes to one minute; it is intended to improve public awareness and behavior around our schools by essentially requiring that engines be shut off right away instead of being kept on for a few minutes. Especially around schools, engines simply should not be kept running for any length of time."
"Idling a car isn't just bad for the environment, it's bad for a bystander's lungs, too," Councilmember James Gennaro, council Environmental Protection Committee chair, said. "With young children especially susceptible to air pollution, it's important that we take measures to address the problem. This legislation is a breath of fresh air for our schoolchildren."
Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. joined the fifth-grade class in savoring their success. As a parent of two girls in public schools, I was so proud of our local fifth graders coming down to take a stance on such an important issue," Vallone declared. Vallone, like his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., attended P.S. 122.