The Asthma Free School Zone was launched from a kitchen table in 2001 as a voluntary, neighborhood-based and school-centered program that aimed to reduce asthma-related absenteeism through improved air quality in and around urban schools. The founding director, Rebecca Kalin, was motivated by the sight of eleven idling school buses in an urban canyon outside a NYC public elementary school. Watch a video.
Here are some highlights:
- 2002: Program activities began at PS 641 on Manhattan's Lower East Side (delayed from Fall 2001 due to 9/11 and proximity to Ground Zero).
- 2003: First funding, an $8000 grant from NY City Councilmember Margarita Lopez (District 2).
- 2004: The director is invited to design a NYC bus shelter poster for the US Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration campaign, It All Adds Up to Clean Air. AFSZ design: Idling Gets You Nowhere
- 2004: Director Rebecca Kalin, fed-up with idling school buses, phones then Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and reports that school buses routinely idle around children at school. Within months, Spitzer sued the largest school bus fleets in NYC and the one-minute school zone idling agreement for NYC bus fleets came into being.
- 2005: AFSZ program wins two US EPA awards: one (national) for excellence in children's environmental health; the other (Region 2: NY, NJ, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) for individual environmental leadership.
- 2006: RWF/AFSZ wins a three-year federal DOT-CMAQ contract that enables a multi-year air quality study, and program development with an eye to long-term sustainability. Under the grant, we measured PM 2.5 and elemental (black) carbon during dismissal time at three school sites for one month each for two years.
- 2007: Aiming for legislative muscle behind the Attorney General's school bus idling agreement, the AFSZ works with NYS Assemblyman Peter Rivera (Bronx District 76) to introduce a NYS bill against school bus idling. The law (Ed. Section 3637) was signed into being in August 2007 by Governor Spitzer.
- 2008: AFSZ launches Idle-Free NYC, a city-wide campaign to raise awareness about engine idling: its economic, health and environmentla costs--as well as its illegality since it has been on-the-books in NYC since 2001.
- 2009: AFSZ worked with Councilmember John C. Liu to shape and introduce one-minute idling legislation. The final bill, whch was signed into law by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, restricted to one-minute all engine idling in school zones. It is the first one-minute law in the country and the first to restrict all vehicle idling in a school zone.