Idle worship! Mayor’s cars running while he jogs at Slope Y

Running late: One of the mayor’s Chevrolet Suburbans idles as his drivers await his honor’s return from the Park Slope Y.
Community News Group / Noah Hurowitz

He is burning calories — and fossil fuels!

Mayor DeBlasio routinely travels 11 miles in a two-car motorcade to workout in his beloved Park Slope YMCA, and leaves his security force in idling cars outside as he breaks a sweat inside.

The mayor, who has positioned himself as an environmentalist by backing bans on in-home wood-burning fireplaces and single-use Styrofoam containers, and is considering a fee for the use of plastic bags at stores, is thumbing his nose at the environment by allowing his motorcade — generally made up of two Chevrolet Suburbans — to idle for up to an hour while he works out, opponents say.

“It is unconscionable for him to do that,” said Gloria Mattera, a Park Slope resident, co-chair of the state Green Party, and former challenger to DeBlasio’s Council seat. “I think these career politicians have two faces. Eventually something has to be compromised.”

Curbside idling is a threat to every New Yorker’s health, according to a 2009 study by the Environmental Defense Fund, a group of more than 500 scientists, economists, and other professionals dedicated to preserving the natural systems on which all life depends. The group claims that each year, unnecessary idling in New York City causes as much smog-forming pollution as 9 million large trucks driving from Hunts Point in the Bronx to Staten Island.

Leaving a car idling is also against the law. New York state law prohibits cars other than licensed emergency vehicles from idling for more than three minutes at a time. A pair of lawmaker recently introduced city legislation that would pay residents willing to report idling automobiles with the funds coming from increased penalties for law breakers.

But it is not just the idling that irks neighbors. Residents say that the amount of miles added to the mayor’s schedule by his trips to Park Slope put even more pollutants in the air.

On one occasion, DeBlasio was inside the Y from about 8:30–9:30 am before he drove another 18 miles to Lehman College in the Bronx where he was scheduled to address a graduation ceremony for corrections officers. The drive from Gracie Mansion to Lehman is just eight and a half miles, so the trip to the Slope adding more than 20 miles to DeBlasio’s drive that day.

DeBlasio also ducked into the Y on the morning of the State of the City address at Baruch College, which is just a three-mile drive from Gracie Mansion, but seven miles from the gym.

In 10 visits to the Prospect Park Y, we saw the mayor five times, stretching on a yoga mat before hopping on an exercise bike, where he generally spends about half an hour at a leisurely pace. Nothing, in other words, that he can’t do at home, said Mattera, who often used to work out side by side with her former opponent.

“He may need to cut his workout short, or get an exercise bike at his house.” she said.

A representative of the mayor refused to discuss the idling motorcade — which he labelled a matter of security — but said his boss likes to use his old Y because that’s where he has worked out for a long time.

“He is staying close to the community where he raised his family and where he has lived for 20 years,” said spokesman Wiley Norvell.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Going green?: Mayor DeBlasio leaves the Prospect Park YMCA, where he regularly exercises as his motorcade idles outside.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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