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Council Raises Unattended Idling Fines. Will NYPD Enforce?

The City Council on Wednesday approved a bill that could prevent future disasters like last January's Chinatown tragedy, which claimed the lives of preschoolers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez.

chinatown.jpgA revised law attaches a stiff fine to the type of carelessness that caused the deaths of two children in Chinatown, but it's up to NYPD to make it stick.

Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley's Intro 947 raises the fine for leaving an idling, unattended vehicle to $250, up from $5. Crowley introduced the bill in response to the deaths of Martinez and Ng, as well as Robert Ogle and Alex Paul, who were run down by a driver who had stolen an unattended car in Middle Village. Having cleared the council's transportation committee with widespread support early this month, the measure also eliminates a three-minute idling "grace period."

The obvious question: What good is it to jack up idling fines, even by a factor of 50, when police can't be counted on to ticket for traffic fatalities? That's where Council Member Dan Garodnick comes in. Last year he introduced legislation that would allow Traffic Enforcement Agents to issue idling tickets using their hand-held computers. The bill stalled some time ago, but a Garodnick spokesperson says it hasn't been forgotten. Since learning that such a change can be handled administratively, Garodnick's office has been waiting for NYPD to carry it out.

Streetsblog has word that the department has completed programming and testing the hand-held units, and now plans to begin training agents, though no timetable was available.

"Obviously it's still something we'd like to see done," Garodnick's spokesperson said, adding that unattended vehicles should be covered under the new protocol. At $250 a pop, it probably wouldn't take many tickets before companies start telling drivers to take two seconds to shut down their trucks.

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