City’s Department of Environmental Protection Considers Loosening Rule on Vehicles Idling

Streetsblog reports that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection is considering amending its rule governing the idling of vehicles on city streets, which is a source of airborne pollution here in Brooklyn Heights as well as throughout the city. The proposed change, which is championed by Spectrum, would broaden the exemptions to the three minute idling rule, which now apply only to vehicles like cement mixers or refrigerated food trucks, to include “other auxiliary equipment other than a heater or air conditioner; or a system designed to control the environment of temperature-sensitive cargo or substances, including but not limited to food.” (Emphasis added.)

Opponents of the change argue that this language is broad enough to allow almost any exemption, including drivers who want to charge their laptops or keep their sushi chilled. Spectrum argues that its drivers need electronic equipment to perform their duties, and that such equipment needs to be “continually charged.” Opponents point out that Spectrum could, at reasonable expense, equip its trucks with batteries to keep the equipment charged.

On Sunday, Streetsblog published a strong argument against the proposed loosening of the idling rules by Dr. Patrick Schnell, a “board certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics” and a former Chief Resident in pediatrics at Long Island College Hospital (remember that?). He concludes his argument with:

It is


time for the New York City DEP to live up to its name and to be an ambassador for New Yorkers, not for companies trying to maximize their short term profits by harming New Yorkers’ health and wellbeing. (Emphasis in original.)

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  • CassieVonMontague

    When they were recently filming City on a Hill on Pierrepont Place, I walked by to see all of the vintage cars which were parked and idling on the street. I could barely breathe with all the fumes, and I felt sorry for all the residents in 57 Montague having that outside their windows all day. It made me grateful for our modern emissions standards and idling restrictions.

  • streeter

    I have been participating in the DEP’s idling vehicle reporting program since 2019, not long after it was introduced. Since getting a dog last year (and having to walk said dog multiple times a day) I have reported on average two vehicles per day on my morning and lunchtime walks over Montague, Pierrepont, Court, Joralemon, Remsen, etc. The number of commercial vehicles that just keep their engines running is staggering.
    So if you see someone with a dog standing awkwardly next to a truck or van for 1-3 minutes, and the vehicle is idling, that might be us! Please say Hi! (Or better yet, wait until you see us swooping in for the license plate and walk away, because we can’t really talk while recording)
    Call us snitches, fine. We’re just trying to do our little part to keep your kids from getting asthma. If you feel bad for businesses that might get ticketed, you can also just knock on their window and ask them to shut it off.
    I’m happy to show anyone and everyone how the program works. The more people who participate, the better. Doing this sporadically since 2019 (and more aggressively the last few months since having to endure the obnoxious fuming on our walks) my 25% take has netted about $60 per submission. So it’s pretty lucrative too (for us and the city).

  • Jorale-man

    As if my opinion of Spectrum couldn’t get any lower…

    Related, I’ve noticed that the ice cream truck has returned to the corner of Livingston & Clinton Streets this past week, spewing fumes into the air. I don’t know if its engine is technically idling or if it’s a separate motor that keeps the ice cream cold, but it’s certainly noisy and smelly.

  • streeter

    because they use a refrigerator/freezer, not eligible for idling complaints.

  • Arch Stanton

    Years ago, I was supervising a large, gut-renovation on the upper west side. At the start of the project, for about 6 weeks during January & Febuary, the building had no heat, no power and it was very cold. A large part of my work was computer based, so for several hours a day I had no choice but to work in my car, idling for heat and power.
    On one occasion a snitch, like you, started to hassle me about the idling. I politely explained my predicament but he still threatened to “make a phone call”. That was until I got out of the car and explained, in no uncertain terms, the consequences of such an action. He scurried away and apparently “got the message” as no authorities ever materialized.

    This coopted snitch system the city has initiated, smacks of the Texas abortion law, where one can sue other citizens they believe are in violation of the law.
    Orwell got it so right!

  • aeshtron

    Motor vehicle exhaust is stinky and poisonous.

  • Effective Presenter

    Had the no idling law been enforced?

    Years ago on Montague Terrace we had lived on the garden floor the HUGE movie location film and catering trucks would arrive at 4am to idle for hours irritating our young children, erc.

    Others on the block also irritated by the idling trucks, cars and no one had been concerned?

    We question how enforced the law has been?


  • streeter

    Since it was the UWS, that person hassling you was probably George Pakenham, the environmental activist whose years of work led to the passing of the anti-idling bill.
    I may owe you royalties.

  • Effective Presenter

    Yes it can be

  • streeter

    It’s pretty much only enforced by citizens, and it takes months for the summonses to be issued.

  • Effective Presenter

    We would raise concerns with Brooklyn Heights Association, local politicians, even called the local precinct CPOP Officer for next to nothing NO response to idling trucks for movies and TV shows.

  • streeter

    Well, at least as of 2018 there is the citizen reporting program, which, while cumbersome, could actually result in tickets. And I guess if people would be standing around recording, the offending parties would know to shut off their engines in some cases. But if this was before 2018 (and maybe even before warm sweaters, external batteries and Starbucks were all invented) then there was pretty much nothing you could do. It’s because of NYPD and DEP unwillingness to ticket lawbreakers that the citizen reporting program came to be.
    All that said, catering trucks have refrigerators that would be allowed to be powered by engines, continuing the exhaust fumes. Pretty much anything food-related gets a pass.

  • Arch Stanton

    I’ll take 20% and forgive the vig. Thank You!

  • B.

    “That was until I got out of the car and explained, in no uncertain terms, the consequences of such an action.” Bravo. Now you can take your place next to the Key Food guy everyone’s been complaining about. Sounds about the same.

  • Arch Stanton

    It is an old school Brooklyn thing, Most people don’t understand.

  • Arch Stanton

    As I expected, vehicle idling is largely a hyped up issue. I did a bit of research. The US burns about 124 billion gallons of gasoline annually (2020). Only about 3 billion of those gallons are attributed to cars and light commercial vehicles idling. So about 2.4%, not a significant amount. Not enough to make a dent in climate change, not enough to stop asthma and certainly not enough to warrant being a di’k by issuing tickets to your neighbors.

  • Kal

    Lol. The fines don’t apply to cars. Nor would anybody from the city respond to a “phone call”. Which I guess is not particularly relevant, since your story never happened.

    Nor, I would wager, have you ever read a word of Orwell.

  • Kal

    Did you do any research as to *where* the gasoline is being burned? It is one thing to burn it out in the Nevada desert. Bad for the environment overall, but compare that to a diesel truck outside your apartment idling all day long. And imagine you have kids in that apartment. You think asthma isn’t a factor? You know it is.

  • Grim

    Yea it seems like the diesel truck operator is being the di’k here, not streeter.

  • Andrew Porter

    Especially now that all the Mafiosa who lived in Carroll Gardens have died off…

  • Arch Stanton

    1. City ordnance says “Any vehicle not excluded” and passenger cars aren’t excluded.
    2. You might be right that no one would have responded.
    3. I did indeed happen, I don’t care what you believe.
    4. I’ll take you up on your Wager say $10,000? Orwell’s one of my faves.

  • B.

    Sorry, very old-school Brooklyn here, and Brooklyn family going back over 130 years or so, and able in my prime (and perhaps even now) to fight off muggers. I do not think bullying and threatening count as Brooklyn.

  • Arch Stanton

    The gas is being used everywhere there is a gas vehicle, the more vehicles in a given area, the more gas is being burned in that area, very few in the Nevada Desert, many in NYC. The percentage of gas used for moving a vehicle vs idling, should be relatively the same. But even if we doubled the idling to 4.8% in urban areas, it’s still not a significant enough number to warrant such invasive practices.
    Idling is especially insignificant, if you look at the big picture. All transportation contributes about 29% of all greenhouse gasses in the US and about 14% globally.
    The planet needs to stop burning fossil fuels on a grand scale, decreasing idling is not going to accomplish anything.

  • Arch Stanton

    Ha ha, I actually do drive a diesel, but it’s a Mercedes- Benz SUV, not a big rig.

    LOL those “loud, exhaust-spewing monsters” transport just about everything you need to live. You out to show some respect.

    I call it as I see it. Di’k wasn’t meant to insult, just a matter of fact observation. Furthermore, I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks of me.

    There isn’t an abundance of “heavy commercial vehicles” idling around BH so irrelevant. However, if you factor in the BQE which sees something over 150k vehicles a day, with hours of near idling traffic and the wind usually blowing out of the West. I’d bet that’s the significant contributor to BH air pollution.

  • Arch Stanton

    Alas, Brooklyn does have many facets. Perhaps you were “lucky” to be brought up in a more privileged, sheltered setting? I can assure you, growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, involved a significant amount of being threatened, bullying and fistfights.

    That being said. In reference to my anecdote; I never threatened the would-be snitch with physical violence. Only that he had several violations on his building and if reported, could result in much financial unpleasantry.

    All ya gotta do is ask…

  • B.

    Whenever someone wants to “win” a conversation, just call the other person privileged whether it’s true or not.

  • Arch Stanton

    I didn’t call you privileged, I pondered the question.

    As for “winning” I was merely defending your scurrilous attack, comparing me to some deranged vagabond.

  • Andrew Porter
  • Kal

    1. Excellent point. However, you nothing of the program, so… false? Quite false!
    2. Thank you. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.
    3. Ok. I am super convinced now.
    4. Make it 10 billion. If you read him (you didn’t) you would know this isn’t what 1984 is about at all.

  • Kal