Attorney General Letitia James announced a new lawsuit on Thursday against three bus companies that have allegedly violated idling laws, predominantly in low-income neighborhoods in Kings County for years.
State laws prevent idling for more than five minutes; city laws bar idling for more than three minutes and one minute in a school zone. Both laws have certain exceptions.
The lawsuit alleges that the three companies – Jofaz Transportation, Inc., 3rd Avenue Transit, Inc., and Y&M Transit Corp., Inc. – constantly violated City and State idling laws from 2019 to as recently as April of this year. James’ office is seeking monetary penalties and a court order to force the companies to comply with the laws.
The three companies, collectively known as the Jofaz Companies, are owned by Joseph Fazzia and his family. In total, they operate 614 buses throughout the city and three bus yards in Brooklyn, per the AG’s office.
A representative for Jofaz Transportation could not be reached as of press time.
The AG previously made an agreement with Jofaz Companies to train staff and comply with city and state laws. The lawsuit alleges that the violations continued well after the meeting, citing data captured by Geotab, a software management tool that the Department of Education installed on the buses.
“The data shows that a significant amount of the Jofaz Companies’ unlawful idling occurs at its three bus yards, two of which are located in or adjacent to communities that are low-income and/or where the residents are primarily people of color (environmental justice communities),” the lawsuit states. “Such communities already suffer from disproportionately high levels of air pollution and a correspondingly disproportionately high number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”
The Attorney General also found that in 2019, 30 different Jofaz school buses idled for at least 10 minutes each for a total of 285 different times over 65 days near P.S. K140, the same location where James hosted the press conference announcing the suit. Bed Stuy, the neighborhood surrounding P.S. K140 is in the 92nd percentile in the country for levels of diesel particulate matter and has childhood asthma rates in the 70th to 80th percentile, according to the AG’s office.
“I’m also grateful for all of the advocates have coming out to support the lawsuit against illegal idling,” Chelsea Miller, a Bed-Stuy high school student with asthma, said. “I’m glad that students who have asthma are being cared for, and that we as a whole are fighting against this and hoping for better air quality.”