Asthma Free School Zone (AFSZ) is a project of Real World Foundation, a NYS 501(c)3 non-profit organization since 2003. The AFSZ program began in 2001 in one school on the Lower East Side of NYC. Today, the program is active in more than 100 schools in the five boroughs of New York City.
The AFSZ program has won US EPA national and regional excellence awards in environmental children’s health, and has received multi-year federal funding for its work in reducing engine idling, measuring air quality in school zones, and educating communities. The AFSZ is a project of Real World Foundation, a NYS 501(c)3 non-profit organization since 2003.
AFSZ community outreach efforts range from small, environmental health street fairs to the yearly, citywide Idle-Free NYC campaign to raise awareness about idling: health, environmental, and fuel costs, as well as idling laws and bills.
The AFSZ has been instrumental in the public policy sphere. It has proposed and helped shape vehicle idling legislation at both the NYC (2004, 2005, 2009) and NYS (2007) level.
In April 2004, the AFSZ Director alerted NYS Office of the
Attorney General (OAG) to the idling school bus problem. Within months, the OAG brought lawsuits against the eight largest metro-area bus fleets (which carried 85% of New York City's school bus riders), and reached agreements to reduce engine idling to one minute near schools. This agreement was given teeth when it was signed into NYS law in 2007.
In 2009, NYC enacted a one-minute idling limit for all vehicles in school zones, a first-in-the-nation measure that was proposed to the New York City Council by AFSZ.
Since 2006, the AFSZ has logged over 125 weeks of air quality testing at eleven NYC public schools. Air quality samplers on school steps, bus stops, and playgrounds measure PM2.5 (particles that lodge deep in and irritate the lung), and elemental carbon (an indicator of diesel exhaust). Field teams observe and record idling behavior in the school zone, including passenger vehicles, delivery trucks, and school buses.
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The AFSZ program won a US EPA Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award and a US EPA Region 2 Environmental Health Award in 2005. The AFSZ initiated and has led the Idle-Free NYC campaign since 2008.