BUSTED! ‘Eyewitness News’ Driver Breaks Law in ABC7-TV Truck

Nuisance-neighbor newsman uses company billboard to block hydrant, pollute air in the Bronx. So what does corporate say?

An illegally parked Eyewitness News truck idles in an illegal spot in the Bronx on April 24, 2020. Photo: Eve Kessler
An illegally parked Eyewitness News truck idles in an illegal spot in the Bronx on April 24, 2020. Photo: Eve Kessler

He’s breaking the law while breaking the news!

The middle-aged-male driver of an ABC7 Eyewitness News truck frequently parks the huge van illegally — and at least twice has been seen idling in the vehicle. 

Lawbreaking by the driver(s?) of the truck is a pattern: The vehicle (license number NYP5134) has been fined $395 for seven traffic violations dating back to 2013, including two school-zone speed-camera tickets, according to @HowsMyDrivingNY.

All of which is a very bad look for a news organization with the motto “7 On Your Side” — especially when it involves a mobile billboard for the company brand.

I have often has seen the truck illegally parked at the corner of West 246th Street and Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx  — blocking a fire hydrant while taking up part of some striped asphalt that is meant to daylight the corner. (See photos below.) A broad, two-way road, Independence Avenue has parking on both its sides, although the driver seems to have a problem finding a legal space.

Hope your building doesn't burn, Eyewitness News guy — but I guess you'd be right there to cover it! The truck blocks a hydrant on May 1. Photo: Eve Kessler
Hope your building doesn’t burn, Eyewitness News guy — but I guess you’d be right there to cover it! The truck blocks a hydrant on May 1. Photo: Eve Kessler

I had a short exchange with the driver on April 24, one of the worst days of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.  

Passing the van on foot, I observed it idling for more than three minutes — which may have been a violation of New York’s City’s stringent anti-idling law and which seemed especially egregious in light of the emerging evidence about air pollution’s role in worsening COVID-19

It’s no small beer: Truck drivers who idle their engines for more than three minutes while parked (one minute by a school) can face fines from $350 to $2,000 (for a repeat offense). The Bronx — including our ZIP code — has some of the city’s highest COVID rates.

Streetsblog has occasionally used vehicles on news assignments, but we've never done this. The truck on June 5. Photo: Eve Kessler
In 30 years of reporting, our reporter has occasionally used vehicles on assignments, but she’s never done this. The truck on June 5. Photo: Eve Kessler

Now, as a reporter, I wasn’t about to become part of the story by lodging an idling complaint with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. (For a primer, click here. The law applies to trucks that transport property and larger buses and has a number of exemptions for activities in the truck.) Instead, I rapped on the door of the van in order to register my concern in a neighborly way. 

The newsman, a good-looking fellow with impressive locks, poked out his head to explain that he was conducting an interview and needed the truck to be running in order to do so. When I told him that it’s illegal to idle for more than three minutes in New York City, he replied, “Yup!” and slammed the door. (Well, of course he knows that idling is illegal! ABC7 covered the big February 27 kick-off of Mayor de Blasio’s anti-idling campaign with rocker Billy Idol.)

Our tax dollars at work: Rocker Billy Idol stars in the city's anti-idling campaign. Image: NYC.gov
It’s the law!: Rocker Billy Idol stars in the city’s anti-idling campaign. Image: NYC.gov

So much for neighborly advice.

I found the driver idling again on June 13. And I’ve snapped pictures of the truck parked illegally on four separate occasions. 

Confronted with “eyewitness” evidence of the lawbreaking in the form of photos, ABC corporate wouldn’t answer questions about its vehicle-use policy, whether the reporter would face any sanctions, who pays for tickets that accrue to company vehicles (there was $115 outstanding on June 8) and whether it might consider a campaign educating its drivers on the idling and vehicle and traffic laws.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will look into the matter,” an ABC spokeswoman said in an email. 

I know she will. Because 7 is “On Your Side,” right?

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