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Pizzerias who make their New York slices in coal and wood-fired ovens could soon be forced to stop using the historic cooking method.
A proposed policy from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection would require restaurants making coal or wood-fired pizzas to slash their carbon emissions by up to 75%.
“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,” department spokesman Ted Timbers said.
“This common-sense rule, developed with restaurant and environmental justice groups, requires a professional review of whether installing emission controls is feasible.”
The rule may mean pizzerias that installed coal or wood-fired ovens before May 2016 must purchase expensive air filter systems to reign in their emissions.
Some of the classic pizza spots that could be affected include Lombardi’s in Little Italy, Fornino’s in Williamsburg and several other locations, Arturo’s in Soho, John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Patsy’s in Turtle Bay and the Upper West Side, and Grimaldi’s near the Brooklyn Bridge.
Fewer than 100 restaurants would be affected by the new rule, a city official told the New York Post.
Paul Giannone, who owns Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, which cooks wood-fired pies, called the $20,000 air filter he installed to prepare for the rule “expensive” and “a huge hassle.”
“Oh yeah, it’s a big expense!” Giannone told the Post. “It’s not just the expense of having it installed, it’s the maintenance. I got to pay somebody to do it, to go up there every couple of weeks and hose it down and you know do the maintenance.”
The rule would require pizzerias using these kinds of ovens to hire a professional to determine whether it is possible to install an emission control device that would cut carbon emissions by 75%.
If installing such a device is not possible, the professional must figure out whether any emission controls could at least reduce emissions by 25% or explain why no emission controls can be installed.
A pizzeria can apply for a variance or waiver, but the restaurant must prove that it has a hardship justifying it.
The proposal was drafted to comply with a 2015 law approved by former Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio also cracked down on businesses that leave their doors open, spilling air conditioning onto the sidewalk.
Department of Environmental Protection officials said they were delayed in drafting the coal and wood-fired oven rules because of the COVID pandemic and because it was difficult to create rules that would not negatively affect restaurants. The department also said it consulted restaurant owners.
“The advisory committee and DEP were unable to finalize a rule in that time frame due to the difficulty of crafting a rule to manage technical and cost concerns that are attendant to the installation of emission control devices,” department officials told the Post.
“For example, costs for controls for existing cook stoves can be difficult to manage as the spaces in which these cook stoves operate are often aging structures that were not designed to accommodate emission control devices,” the officials added. “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.”