Give DEP a ‘Rebel Yell’ if you spot illegally idling drivers, get a reward: de Blasio

Billy Idol outside City Hall on Feb. 27 to promote the "War on Idling" with Mayor Bill De Blasio. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Billy Idol said he loves the environment and program’s slogan had a fun twist on his name, but he’s serious about helping Mayor Bill de Blasio stop idling vehicles.

And “Billy Never Idles” are words the punk rocker lives by, he told reporters. He shuts off his motorcycle’s engine to prevent it from overheating… oh yeah, and to cut back on his own carbon footprint.

Nonetheless, City Hall Plaza was filled with screaming Idol fans as the mayor promoted a somewhat-new program that pays out 25% of fines to people who turn in driver that leave their cars running while parked.

“When I heard about this campaign, it just made sense. It’s amusing, at the same time it’s very serious. You can shut off your engine and save my health…I need my lungs to breath and sing,” Idol said, appealing to fans.

Cars and trucks reported to the city Department of Environmental Protect can be subject to a fine if the person who submits the claim can prove through video evidence that the vehicle was idling for three minutes, or just one minute in front of schools and hospitals.

“When I think of all the things you have to do to save the earth, some of them are tough; we still have to do them. Some of them aren’t tough at all,” de Blasio said. “Idling is just stupid. We all do it, but we don’t need to.”

Legislation was sponsored by Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal passed in 2018 – going into effect in 2019 – that expanded the Citizen Enforcement Program which de Blasio said could cut emissions by an equivalent of 18,000 vehicles. Now all citizens need to enforce anti-idling laws is to provide video evidence through the DEP web portal at billyneveridles.nyc.

The atmosphere at the press conference was rich with puns.

“The campaign being launched today will put all drivers on notice that they need to turn off their engines when their vehicles are not in use, our most overburdened neighborhoods will see aggressive enforcement support and we’ll begin to turn the tide on this idle threat,” Rosenthal said.

DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said while the program has been around for the past year, the bulk of enforcement has not been in the form of summonses, but in issuing verbal warnings.

“Right now, over the past several months, we’ve just been kind of knocking on windows saying, ‘hey, you know about this law?’ Now we’re going to start being a little more aggressive,” Sapienza said.

De Blasio and Sapienza committed to even holding city workings accountable to the law, but for now only large trucks will be subject to a citation.

The policy also has another slogan: “War on Idling.” Perhaps it will be more successful than the War on Drugs or the War on Terror. 

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