Today the Brooklyn Paper reported on Mayor de Blasio's unwavering allegiance to the Park Slope YMCA, despite the fact that it no longer qualifies as the Mayor's neighborhood gym. According to the Paper, de Blasio "routinely" travels the 11 miles between Gracie Mansion and the YMCA with a two-car motorcade of gas-gulping Chevrolet Suburbans that, as the reporter observed over the course of a week, "idle for up to an hour while he works out."
Superfluous driving aside, it is technically illegal to leave a car idling for more than three minutes at a time in New York State, or for more than one minute in a school zone (the law excludes licensed emergency vehicles). The first violation slaps offenders with a warning, the second with a $220 fine. However, only 209 summonses were issued in 2014, suggesting that the current law is not a deterrent to needlessly burning fossil fuels.
Earlier this month, Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosenthal and Rockaways Councilmember Donovan Richards, Jr. proposed a bill that would raise the first idling fine to $350, and allow New Yorkers to film and report idling cars and trucks to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The DEP would then be able to use the video clips as justification for a summons for the offending idler. As additional incentive, one half of any subsequent fine would go to the concerned citizen with the smart phone. The money could serve as incentive for these whistleblowers, who would have to take a class, and register with the DEP, in order to submit evidence of idling.
The mayor—who recently said he supported the "underlying goal" of a proposed fee for plastic shopping bags, but noted that he's still "evaluating" the bill—hasn't publicly commented on whether he supports the new idling bill, though a source familiar with the administration says the mayor has reservations about how the law would be implemented.
In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg ordered his convoy of SUVs to "set a better example" with respect to how they burned fuel while waiting for their charge. (Granted, this was the man who literally had an air conditioning unit installed inside of his Chevy Yukon.)
According to a report from the Environmental Defense Fund [PDF], idling vehicles in the city emit 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year; the City would need to plant an area of trees the size of Manhattan each year to counteract that pollution.
Councilmember Rosenthal declined to comment on the mayor's stance on her bill or his idling SUVs.
Additional reporting by Christopher Robbins.