Young Reporters Find Rampant Violations of NYC Environmental Law

Written by
Richard Just, Suzy Khimm
Aug. 18, 2016


 CONTACT: Richard Just ([email protected]) and Suzy Khimm ([email protected])


In one August afternoon, 104 vehicles were found violating an NYC law that makes it illegal for cars, vans, or buses to idle for more than three minutes.
Investigative story authored by 37 high school students attending Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, which works with outstanding students from extremely low-income backgrounds across the country.
PRINCETON, N.J.—Thirty-seven high school reporters from across the country published an investigation on Monday that found rampant violations of a New York City law intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The young reporters, attending the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program—an initiative that seeks to diversify journalism and related fields by working with outstanding students from low-income backgrounds—found 104 vehicles idling for longer than three minutes in Manhattan and Brooklyn on a single day. The drivers were violating an NYC law that prohibits cars, vans, and buses from idling for more than three minutes, or for more than one minute near a school. The student reporters conducted their investigation over the course of a single August afternoon, timing vehicles that were idling and interviewing drivers that were violating the law. According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, idling vehicles in NYC emit 510 tons of carbon dioxide every day. Among the findings: — About 80 percent of the violations involved private automobiles, and the rest were commercial vehicles, limos, and taxis. — Less than one in five drivers turned off their engines after being approached by reporters. — City officials are not taking a strong interest in enforcing NYC’s anti-idling law, despite a 2009 measure by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to improve enforcement. 

The investigative report, published in the students’ newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal, is available here:

The project was reported by all students attending the program, and was written by five students: Aracely Chavez of Pacoima, CA, a senior at San Fernando High School’s magnet program; Taylor Fetty of Hundred, WV, a senior at Hundred High School; Breonna Reese of Gary, IN, a senior at 21st Century Charter School; Sarah Santiago of Philadelphia, PA, a senior at Esperanza Academy; and Michael Williams of Brooklyn, NY, a senior at Millennium Brooklyn High School.

The rest of the students’ newspaper (featuring coverage of a New Jersey congressional campaign, the Woodrow Wilson controversy at Princeton, and much more) can be read here:

And a short documentary created by the students—featuring some of their own life stories—can be viewed here:

The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program annually brings 35-40 low-income high school students from across the country to Princeton’s campus for an intensive, all-expenses-paid 10-day seminar on journalism and college admissions. The program’s goal is to prepare students to pursue careers in journalism or other intellectual fields, thereby diversifying the professions that shape American democracy.

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