Sneaky New Yorkers taking advantage of a city clear-air initiative are making up to $225,000-a-year by reporting idling trucks to the city, then claiming a cut of the $350 fine.
Leaving a truck engine idling for more than three minutes is an offense in NYC, with anyone who submits video proof to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) handed an $85 bonus by the department, for every proven violation they submit.
Environmental lawyer Ernest Welde, 47, says he submitted proof of thousands of violations last year, which are yet to be processed, but which he estimates will earn him between $200,000 and $225,000.
And busybody former Marine Paul Slapikas, 81, says he netted $64,000 in 2021 by doing the same thing. Truckers caught with idling engines have been known to lash out at anyone they suspect of filming them – so Slapikas, who lives in Queens, has devised a clever routine to throw them off the scent.
He stands in front of an idling truck acting like a lost tourist- equipped with a camera hanging from his neck and a city map and a flip phone. But he is secretly recording idling trucks with a concealed iPhone and once he’s done he walks away satisfied, potentially just earning his cut of the fine.
Welde bragged: ‘The money, it’s awesome!’ with Slapikas agreeing while joking that ‘They say the streets are paved with gold.’
In 2018 NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection launched Citizens Air Complaint Program allowing everyday New Yorkers to file ‘citizen complaints’ of idling vehicles.