New York Post - April 28, 2019
Dropping a dime on trucks and buses that keep their engines running while parked is paying big bucks to some New Yorkers.
The number of summonses issued for violating the city’s anti-idling law skyrocketed to 1,038 last year — up from just 24 in 2017 — following the creation of a reward program for ratting out offenders, The Post has learned.
Meanwhile, the city Department of Environmental Protection has handed out nearly $20,000 to 13 whistleblowers who each got a 25 percent share of the fines generated by their tips, according to official data.
Leading the list is lawyer David Dong, who pocketed $4,912.80 from 47 summonses, followed by theater worker Zachary Tinkelman, who scored $4,600, also from 47 summonses.
Their payouts differed because fines for idling for more than three minutes — or one minute in a school zone — range from $350 to a maximum $2,000 for a repeat offense.
Four of Dong’s bounties involved repeat offenders, which netted him two payments of $375 each and another two of $250.
Neither man would comment, but George Pakenham — an Upper West Side banker whose years of activism sparked the reward program — described Dong as “a machine.”
“He’s very aggressive,” Pakenham said.
“He’s really pursuing this in an entrepreneurial way.”
Pakenham came in third, with $4,300 from 34 summonses, which he said pushed his total take to around $10,000, including from cases he previously prosecuted on his own.
“It’s sort of a miraculous thing that’s taken place,” he said.
“Citizens are doing the job that the police don’t wish to do and they’re being compensated for it, and at the same time they’re cleaning up the air in New York City, so it’s a trifecta of wins, so to speak.”
Under the program, first revealed by The Post last year, citizens can file complaints by filling out a form available from the DEP and submitting time-stamped photos or video of an idling vehicle.
It usually takes about three months from submission of an accepted complaint to collect the bounty, Pakenham said.
Pakenham — who was featured in a 2012 documentary film and a recent episode of HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” that’s racked up 1.3 million YouTube views — said he was working the DEP to create a user-friendly website for people to file complaints.
He also offered to train anyone who’s “serious” about joining the crackdown.
“I know more about this than anybody, so I’m not stingy about my knowledge,” he said.
The DEP plans to unveil the new website sometime this spring, and is also considering unspecified “additional tools” to combat idling, spokesman Ted Timbers said.
“Idling vehicles and the air pollution they emit is a serious public health issue and by empowering New Yorkers to document violations on their own, we supplement the work of our inspectors,” Timbers said.
CBS New York - April 12, 2019
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One man has found an interesting way to pick up a few extra bucks, while even helping to save the environment – and you could cash in, too.
CBSN New York’s Natalie Duddridge spent the morning the documenting trucks and buses idling on city streets. She also tagged along the with an Upper West Side resident who is now making money off of a little known traffic law.
Meet George Pakenham, mortgage broker by day, engine exhaust vigilante by early morning and night.
He has spent years letting drivers know the city’ law against idling that says you must turn your engine off within three minutes in the five boroughs. That time drops to one minute in a school zone…
Pakenham even made a documentary about his environmental activism called “Idle Threat.”
In 2017 the city passed a law allowing citizens to submit photo or video evidence of drivers idling to the Department of Environmental Protection.
If a ticket is issued to a driver – a fine averaging $350 – the citizen who submitted it gets to collect 25 per cent, or on average $88.
In the last few years, Pakenham has made thousands.
“I’ve made about $10,000 cash in my bank,” he said. “You provide video and photographic evidence, then you create an air complaint form that you fill out and submit that electronically to the DEP and then you have to wait.”
Friday morning, CBS2 found several drivers idling, including one for nearly 20 minutes. When approached about it, the driver said “I know it’s wrong, I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s out of habit.”
Such idling happens despite large signs hanging in the neighbourhood noting no engine idling, with a maximum fine of $2,000.
HBO Vice News - April 11, 2019
Thanks to a new law, any New Yorker with a cell phone and some time to kill can earn thousands of dollars reporting on idling commercial vehicles.