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Advocates: NYC Idling Law Not Being Enforced, Children Put At Risk

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Engine exhaust from cars, trucks and buses has been linked to cancer, strokes and New York City's high rate of childhood asthma.

The city has tough laws to prevent drivers who sit with their vehicles running, but, as CBS2's Don Dahler has seen, some say it's no more than an idle threat, because it's rarely enforced.

When school lets out, scenes of drivers, parked and idling as they wait to take kids home, are playing out all over the city.

Parents say it's a dangerous health situation and they're sounding the alarm.

They said the longer the engines run, the more toxins are released into the air and this is putting children at risk.

"I have an 8-year-old son with asthma. I do worry the air quality in New York City is pretty bad.  The, the idling just makes it worse," said one parent.

It's made even worse because many drivers are ignoring the law that limits idling time near schools to one minute.

CBS 2 cameras tracked drivers at local schools and found driver after driver breaking the law.

At one Upper East Side school, CBS 2 watched as one driver sat idling well past the one-minute limit, up to 10 minutes and all the way to 15 minutes.

Some drivers said they know all about the law, but disregard it anyway.

"Yes, I know that. Actually I was planning to shut it off," said one driver.

Environmental advocates complain enforcement of the law is virtually nonexistent.

In Manhattan last year, the NYPD issued 2,210 tickets for idling, of which 66 were issued in Queens, 34 in Brooklyn and just 12 in the Bronx.

"When NYPD wants to enforce the law, it enforces the law... It's been pretty clear, if you look at the data... Twelve tickets across the whole Bronx in a year? They're not enforcing the law," said Rich Kassal of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg admits enforcement could be better, but said that the police have other priorities.

"People that enforce that law have plenty of other things to do. The Police Department's first job is going to be worrying about a lot more serious things," Bloomberg said.

But activists and parents say their main concern is children's health.

By the way, the idling limit on city streets not near schools is three minutes.

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