The Times of London | April 30 2019
Back when New York City was a metropolis rife with muggings and murders, a group of citizens dressed in crimson began patrolling the streets and subways calling themselves the Guardian Angels. Now a new set of vigilantes has risen up to do battle with another threat to the life of the city, posed by cars parked with their engines running.
New Yorkers may not know the name of David Dong or Zachary Tinkelman, but between them over the past year, the two men have reported more than 90 illegally idling vehicles to the authorities. Under a programme launched last year to reduce air pollution they were entitled to claim a share of the fine collected by the city. Mr Dong, a lawyer, made $4,912.80 while Mr Tinkelman, who is said to be a theatre worker, was awarded $4,600.
Thirteen ordinary New Yorkers stepped up to bring idling motorists to book over the past year, resulting in 188 summonses, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. Mr Dong and Mr Tinkelman were the Batman and Robin of the idling justice league, accounting for nearly half the summonses. Just behind them was George Pakenham, a Wall Street banker who is largely responsible for the programme. Engine idling in New York causes as much pollution as nine million lorries driving the length of the city, from the Bronx to Staten Island, according to the city government.
Mr Pakenham first became interested in 2006. “It was in the aftermath of the Iraq war, which it had become clear was for oil,” he said. “I would see my fellow New Yorker at the kerbside, in a truck with its engine on.”
In addition, his brother, a non-smoker, had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which made him particularly interested in the possible effects of air pollution. Returning one night to his flat on the Upper West Side he accosted the driver of a limousine idling outside his building and asked the driver to turn off the engine. “He said, ‘Oh, sure.’ I thought, ‘Wow!’”
Mr Pakenham duly began accosting other idling drivers. Once, rapping at the window of a limousine, the driver shooed him away, saying he was an undercover cop. “Then he goes, ‘Get back here!’ He goes, ‘I admire you knocking against my window. There is a law against what I was doing. If you are interested, do the research.’ ”
Mr Pakenham was, and did: the law, from 1971, prohibited idling for more than three minutes. He began keeping a spreadsheet of driver responses to his knocks: often people said, “I’m not paying for the gas,” but he heard all sorts of other justifications. A film about his efforts: Idle Threat: Man on Emission, helped to boost his profile and made the city government take note. In 2014 an official offered him some advice over lunch. “She said, ‘Great movie but the New York Police Department will never enforce this law. They just don’t give a damn.
“She said to me, ‘You need to pursue this with a citizen’s air quality complaint form, where the citizen gets half the fine.’”
A bill pushed by his local representative became law last year. Under the legislation, whistleblowers could submit time-stamped photographs or video footage, by way of evidence, and receive 25 percent of the fine.
The Drive - April 29, 2019
By Chris Tsui
"Snitches get riches." Wait, that's not the saying, is it?
Last year, New York City launched a cash reward program for any citizens who blew the whistle on commercial vehicles that violated the city's anti-idling law, parking by a curb with the engine running for over three minutes (or one minute in a school zone). For a small group of, um, enterprising New Yorkers, this has proven to be quite the lucrative side-hustle.
According to the New York Post, NYC's Department of Environmental Protection awards 25 percent of the generated fines and paid out a total of $20,000 to a group of just 13 amateur informants in 2018. All in all, the city issued 1,038 idling-related summonses last year compared to just 24 in 2017.
The program's top earner, a lawyer named David Dong, reportedly made $4,912.80 off of 47 violations. Nipping at his heels is theater worker Zachary Tinkelman, who took home $4,600 from the same number of summonses. Coming in third is George Pakenhem, a banker who was apparently instrumental in the program's inception and made $4,300 from ratting idlers out last year.
Interestingly, it sounds like the program's top contributors all kind of know each other because Pakenham spoke to the Post and said Dong is "a machine" who's "very aggressive" and "really pursuing this in an entrepreneurial way."
The fine for idling too long on a New York City street ranges from $350 to $2,000 for repeat offenders. Citizens who notice an offending vehicle can tattle file a complaint by submitting a DEP form along with a time-stamped photo or video evidence. Pakenhem says it typically takes three months to collect a bounty from the day of submission.
"Citizens are doing the job that the police don't wish to do and they're being compensated for it, " says Pakenhem. "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."
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.