New York City’s pizza joints face crackdown on 'polluting' ovens
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New York City’s pizza joints face crackdown on 'polluting' ovens

Jul 02, 2024

(The Center Square) — New York City's iconic pizza joints are pushing back against a proposed city regulation that would require restaurants that use wood and coal-fired ovens to make costly upgrades to help blunt the impact of climate change.

Proposed rules being floated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection would require about 100 bakeries and pizzerias in the city using wood or coal-fired pizza ovens built before 2016 to take potentially costly steps to reduce emissions.

The proposed rules, which stem from a law that went into effect seven years ago, seek to reduce New York City's carbon emissions by 75%, according to the agency.

"All New Yorkers deserve to breathe healthy air and wood and coal-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality," DEP spokesman Ted Timbers said in a statement. "This common-sense rule, developed with restaurant and environmental justice groups, requires a professional review of whether installing emission controls is feasible."

The New York Post, which first reported the proposed rules, quoted several New York City restaurant owners objecting to the requirements saying it would force them to make costly upgrades and affect how the famous food is prepared.

One outraged New York owner tossed dozens of slices onto New York City Hall property to protest the proposed regulations, posting a video on social media.

"You heard of the Boston Tea Party. This is the New York Pizza Party," the unidentified man said. "Give us pizza or give us death.”

Under the rules, restaurant owners would be required to hire an engineer to determine if they can install emission-reduction devices. If the engineer's review concludes that a reduction of 75% or more can't be achieved or that no emissions controls can be installed, the restaurant or property owner must install emission controls that could provide a reduction of at least 25%, or provide an explanation for why they can't be established.

Mayor Eric Adams has defended the proposed regulations but suggested he is open to compromise if the impact on restaurant owners becomes too costly.

"Let's let the public weigh in, and then we can have a conversation if we're going to move forward or not," he told reporters on Monday.

The rules stem from a 2015 law signed by Adam's predecessor, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, that mandated emissions control devices on new and existing commercial charbroilers in restaurants that cook more than 875 pounds of meat a week.

DEP officials said the rules were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and negotiations with restaurant owners over the "technical and cost concerns" of the proposed restrictions.

“In addition, many of the locations where existing cook stoves are used are not owned by the operators of the cook stoves, and changes required to install such devices require obtaining the landlord’s permission," the agency said.

The public can comment on the proposed rules before the DEP's July 27 meeting, when the regulations will be finalized.

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