Local City Council member Helen Rosenthal wants to let citizens armed with smartphones help enforce laws against drivers of idling vehicles. She plans to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would let the city use video evidence from residents to find violators.

“New York City law prohibits vehicles from idling for more than 3 minutes on most streets and more than 1 minute in a school zone, but this law is rarely enforced. Council Member Rosenthal and Richards’ bill would allow anyone to film an idling vehicle and submit the footage to a City website. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be able to issue a summons based on that evidence, and the person who submitted the footage could receive up to 50% of the fine collected by the City.”

“Automobile exhaust gas” by Ruben de Rijcke.

NEWS | 47 comments | permalink
    1. EF says:

      We all want cleaner air, but I think its really a BAD idea to turn over law enforcement to fellow citizens, especially for money!

      Helen, you should really know better than that.

    2. Cato says:

      Which means that any stalwart citizen volunteering to record such chicanery would need to stand in place, camera (or, let’s face it, cellphone) in hand and running continuously, for at least three full minutes without a break to document a violation outside of a school zone.

      Right. That’ll happen. Not.

      How about deputizing us to take videos of the maniacs careening through left turns, or making turns without signaling, or other dangerous driving stunts? That won’t take three minutes of standing still burning batteries, and might address far more deadly behaviors than (cough cough) engines idling?

      Since the City won’t enforce the (really important) traffic rules, how about letting us do it by video?

    3. Eddie says:

      I would do it in a heartbeat. We have a fire hydrant in front of our building that is used for quick drop off and pick up. We periodically have cab and black car drivers park there to take a nap. I threaten them then come back 30 minutes later and they are still there. Standing with a camera on them for 3 minutes would easily solve the problem.

      • Cato says:

        This makes good sense. But wouldn’t it be even better if the City were to accept your photo of the car *at the hydrant* as evidence that the car was, say, parked at the hydrant, and issue a ticket for that misdeed as well?

        We also have a hydrant near our building that is regularly used by one particular car as his or her personal overnight parking space. Never once gotten a ticket that I’ve seen.

        • Eddie says:

          With a still photo, the offender could claim they were only there for a moment. With a few minutes of video, there is proof that they were parked, particularly if the video shows them napping.

      • TFJWM says:

        During the day it’s legal to stand at a fire hydrant as long as you want.

    4. EF says:

      This is a terrible idea — especially for a cut of the fine.

      • drg says:

        Ridiculously bad idea.
        Is this what we have regressed to? Citizens doing police work?
        The potential for violence here is completely mind-boggling… for which NYC would probably be liable for.
        I mean, really, aren’t towing companies and traffic cops prone to encounter the worst of people in these situations, and now our “enlightened” politicians want untrained iphone wielding innocents to do THEIR enforcement jobs.
        I thought minimal intelligence was occasionally displayed in the City Council. I guess I am incorrect

    5. Liam says:

      What a silly problem to deal with. In the winter cars need to idle to come to temp. Maybe we can take videos of bikers running lights or pedestrians crossing against the light as well!

    6. LK says:

      Amazingly bad idea. Nice society building exercise – turning your neighbor in for money. Not going to happen, but the idea itself sheds a light on our representatives. Next idea – taking pictures of dog owners/walkers not cleaning up after their dogs.

      • Cato says:

        Sounds like a great idea to me. (Almost as good as picking up Poopsie’s poopsies myself and depositing them in or on Poopsie’s Mommy’s person…..)

    7. Bruce Bernstein says:

      i really don’t like the bounty idea… and i doubt it would work.

    8. margie says:

      You never know who will get angry and come after you. I’d be afraid to do something like that.

    9. kgbUWS says:

      I am more worried about the solid black chunks of crap that we are breathing in that comes out of the apartment building incinerators. I am shocked that this has not been explored and stopped. It snows and with in 6 hours it is covered in black soot, then look closer, it is chunks of who knows what. What doesn’t land in the street etc we breathe in. AWFUL. Toxic mess.
      I have approached a$$hats that are idling for long periods of time out in front of my building parked at the hydrant to please turn off the engine and every single time the person declines. Sometimes rudely. This citizens initiative will get no where.

      • ELJ says:

        Are you sure you don’t mean residue from heating oil? Incinerating garbage has been illegal in NYC for quite some time other than limited exceptions for some hospitals.

        If it is heating oil residue, at least tthe City has proactively tried to make improvements: This was discussed at my building’s shareholder meeting a few years ago as we were getting notice that there would be an increase in expenses for the building’s oil. There is still a ways to go to reduce the residue but at least it is moving in a positive direction.

    10. Jesse says:

      I am very excited about this. I don’t necessarily care about video taping people for a reward, but anything that cuts down on idling is good by me.

    11. Cayman says:

      During the protests in NYC at the end of last year we had NYPD vans parked in front of the school idling for hours on end. There were at least 30 of them. I understand they need the warmth, but they wouldn’t listen to suggestions to combine vans instead of idling all of them. Would have loved to know the 1 or 3 min rule to make a complaint.

    12. Spence Halperin says:

      One of the more terrible ideas I have heard in a long time. Yes, the problem of idling needs to be addressed. But empowering citizens to enforce the law will lead to community animosities beyond that which we usually experience.

    13. cc says:

      I love this idea! People complain that the cops should prevent “real” crime. Fair enough, given their limited resources. Who can help enforce “lesser” laws? We can. And this is not enforcing the law. This is helping to enforce by providing evidence. It’s no different than providing pictures you took of a car after a hit and run.

    14. sarah says:

      Does ths nclude the FreshDirect trucks in front of my building literally all day every day?

    15. Joe says:

      The city has and continues to do it’s best to
      slow traffic by creating bike lanes and pedestrian pavilions, as well as half way points on west end avenue. All of which have created more congestion and pollution, through out the city. Now we are going to have trained vigilantes video taping standing cars? What the hell are we electing folks.

    16. Anneke says:

      Great idea! Cleaner air and making people more responsible .

    17. Debbi says:

      Does this law also apply to oil trucks making deliveries?

    18. Carol Feldman says:

      Would this include the 20 or so shuttle buses all idling for 20 minutes at a time all weekend lined up on both sides of Broadway when the 1/2/3 lines are having work done?

    19. Pedestrian says:

      Why do I feel really uncomfortable about the City paying neighbors to report neighbors?

      Construction vehicles–big one – are idling daily for hours yet the police zoom by. Now we are going to pay neighbors to report their neighbors…it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

    20. Kathy says:

      As if there wasn’t enough violence in New York City!

      Didn’t the Nazi’s used to give extra food and privlages to Jews who would turn in other Jews, while living in the ghettos? We need to unite as New Yorkers, not turn against eachother.

      • Independent says:

        Didn’t the Nazi’s used to give extra food and privlages to Jews who would turn in other Jews, while living in the ghettos?

        You’re not really comparing this to that, are you? I hope not.

    21. Ellen Frankel says:

      How about the “idling” all the buses in the Port Authority building do? They are some of the worst offenders. Signs to not idle are all over the bus levels but the driver and supervisors pay no attention. I take a bus up to Boston often and personally observe this.

    22. Amy says:

      I love this proposal – I was actually thinking about calling 311 yesterday because of an idling school bus next to our local school. Instead I just held my breath the length of the block, so I wouldn’t gag on the diesel exhaust. If I thought it would really be acted on, I would definitely take a video.

    23. Nancy says:

      Where will Mr Softee go? I’m not arresting him!! I’m all about the dog poop though. I have two dogs and lately am picking up three for everyone of mine. Disgusting!! But has anyone seen the immense pile of cigarette butts on the corner of 76th and Broadway? Mostly from Red Farm workers. There’s a garbage right there.

    24. Heidi says:

      The problem with letting traffic police give these vehicles a ticket is that they don’t want to do anything you tell them. They refer you to 311 which is completely ineffective. They’ve never done anything with a Freshdirect truck PARKED most of the day at the corner of W59 and Columbus. They installed their own distribution service from there. They have carts chained to the traffic signs saying Not Parking at Anytime. 311 has never done anything. I guess Freshdirect is paying off someone.

    25. Stuart says:

      It’s about time this got looked at from a different angle. Police are sometimes the worst offenders in violating this law.

    26. Charles Bronson says:

      I like it!

    27. Gretchen says:

      A good idea on the surface, but the devil is in the details and there’s ample room for fraud and chicanery. Helen is clueless, as usual.

    28. Auws says:

      Is anyone out there not a communist and interested in running against Helen Rosenthal… Please!

    29. Robs72 says:

      This actually sounds like a great idea. I think some idlers must have no idea how harmful the emissions are to their own health and the health of fellow New Yorkers. For those of you talking about this bill causing “neighbor to turn against neighbor”, then what do you have to say about fellow New Yorkers causing asthma in many of our young children just because they want the a/c on in their car?

    30. Andy says:

      I love it. First thing Helen has said that I support. Thanks Helen.

    31. 24gotham says:

      While I don’t think the kickback is necessary, I think better enforcement of existing laws by allowing citizens to assist in documenting the scofflaws is a great idea.
      Before moving to the UWS, lived across the street from a hotel in Hell’s Kitchen which frequently had idling tour buses waiting to pick up groups to take them wherever it was they were going. I complained countless times to the hotel reminding them that ultimately they are responsible to no end. I photographed license plates, and call 311…. Nothing changed.

    32. smbnyc says:

      I hope this includes all the offenders that double park on Broadway and major cross streets to run into the bank/Starbucks/deli etc.
      I agree, I don’t think compensation is needed- people will gladly do it for free!

    33. Mort cohen says:

      Great idea. If the police can’t or won’t enforce the law this would be a good soloutikn!