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.
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 issues to a driver – a fine averaging $350 – the citizen who submitted it gets to collect 25 percent, 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 neighborhood noting no engine idling, with a maximum fine of $2,000.