Idling Diaries: Part 2

Lael Goodman, our environmental justice program manager, shares her experience reporting truck and bus idling in North Brooklyn via the city’s Idling Complaint System.

After “practice” experiences recording idling trucks and buses in North Brooklyn, I was determined to learn from my mistakes. I hit the streets with a renewed fervor to successfully document idling in North Brooklyn, submit my complaint to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, and (hopefully!) get paid for my efforts.  

My target was a shuttle bus idling outside the Bedford Avenue L-train entrance. I first did a mental assessment to make sure the shuttle bus qualified. There seemed to be seats for at least 15 passengers but I couldn’t see any passengers through the windows. Additionally, no passengers were entering or exiting the vehicle and the temperature outside was a balmy 60° F. It seemed to fit all the criteria for a successful idling complaint — I hit record.

This was by far the easiest of my documentation sessions. The hustle and bustle of Bedford Avenue rendered my filming much less conspicuous. While I recorded, I brainstormed several elaborate cover stories should the bus driver confront me: I was meeting a friend to take the L into Union Square to eat at the Nutella café; my husband was getting a blueberry bagel with cream cheese at nearby Bagelsmith; or I was waiting on a Lyft and was watching it slowly wind its way through the streets on my cellphone.

Three minutes passed quickly, and I continued my walk to work. It was then I realized that I had forgotten to take any photos. At the Idle Ca$h: Combatting Truck Idling workshop, I had learned that while video documentation is important, photo evidence is also vital. Videos can have technical issues, especially with large file sizes. Luckily, I also learned that you can take video stills to serve as photographic evidence. Once at the office, I took some screenshots and got ready to make my first submission.

Submitting a Complaint

I created an account at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection portal. I answered some basic questions that were designed to determine whether the vehicle was eligible to be reported, and then my contact information. Using the DOT number I found on the vehicle, I looked up some details on the company that I was reporting. I then typed up all the details that I had already submitted (such as location of the incident, license plate, etc) into a written statement.

Because I did not want to be responsible for showing up in court at a future, unknown date, I said I would not be able to attend a court meeting. Instead, I filled out a Citizen’s Air Complaint Affidavit which was provided on the site. I was able to save all the information I had filled out on previous screens to return to later. I then printed out the affidavit to be notarized. Once notarized, I submitted the complaint through the website. After just a moment, I received a confirmation email and was assigned a complaint number.

About two weeks later, I received an email stating, “The complaint and related supporting documentation package is accepted and the assigned citizen’s complaint number is [omitted]. A summons will be written by a New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) air pollution inspector. Information related to summons’s number, hearing date and instructions will be sent in a separate correspondence.”

I have yet to receive that information, but for now my work is done. Soon it will be up to others to bring the company to justice.