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 nearly 150 schools in the five boroughs of New York City. Idle-Free NYC is a AFSZ project that began in 2008.
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 (some) teeth when it was signed into NYS law in 2007 (Ed. Law Sec. 3637).
Beginning in 2008, the AFSZ began talking with City Council members about strengthening City idling laws, particularly in school zones. It helped shape and push through, in 2009, a one-minute idling limit for all vehicles in school zones. It is the first-in-the-nation one-minute idling law and the first law to recognize the problem of any vehicle idling near a school.
Under a federal DOT CMAQ grant, beginning in 2006, the AFSZ 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.