Following the circulation of a New York Post “exclusive” claiming that owners of old-fashioned pizza ovens—which produce some of New York City’s most famed food staples—may soon have to alter their pizza-making practices in the name of climate change, celebrities like Elon Musk and Dave Portnoy took to social media to express their outrage.
“This is utter bs. It won’t make a difference to climate change,” Musk tweeted. One Staten Island shock artist, Scott LoBaido, even launched pizza slices over the City Hall gates in protest this Monday, June 26, as he chanted, “give us pizza or give us death.” Yet contrary to the tabloid’s assertion that this law is meant to fight climate change and “cut carbon emissions,” the City Record, the official journal of legal notices published by NYC, uses no such language behind the new DEP regulation. Rather, it says the proposed rule is meant to mitigate the negative health consequences the ovens emit by way of reducing “particulate matter released into the environment, which is a known cause of asthma and other respiratory complications.” As such, the law would require restaurants with brick wood-fired or coal-fired ovens to install controls known as scrubber that reduce the particulate matter emissions they generate by at least 75 percent. If a 75 percent reduction is not feasible, restaurants must decrease their ovens’ emissions by 25 percent or explain to authorities why they cannot reach any of the desired cut backs. The proposed law would only apply to restaurants with ovens installed before 2016, as a 2015 law already compels new ovens to meet these environmental health requirements. Although the rule would impact less than 100 businesses across the city, many of the potentially affected restaurants are well established, high-profile fixtures with loyal customer bases who are angered by the convoluted news that seems to suggest this law will bring down pizza empires in furtherance of a “leftist agenda.”
While this law might not have much to do with climate change, it may come at a steep price for restaurateurs, who will be obligated to foot the bill for the engineers and architects that are necessary to determine at what degree control implementation is possible. Estimates are the scrubbers could cost $30,000 or more to install.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, reiterated these concerns to the Gothamist and explained that, “for those that can comply, it’s going to be expensive and complicated.” Paul Giannone, the owner of Paulie Gee’s pizzeria, who had previously installed a control device in his restaurant, said in a statement that the installation and maintenance of these devices are a large expense. On the flip side, Giannone said, “my neighbors are much happier. I had a guy coming in for years complaining that the smoke was, you know, going right into his apartment, and I haven’t seen him since I got the scrubber installed.”
Edward Timbers, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection, called the proposal a “common-sense rule,” adding that “all New Yorkers deserve to breathe healthy air and coal and wood-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality.”
In a statement to Straus News, a Grimaldi’s representative said the pizzeria “is committed to providing our guests with our pizza’s award-winning taste while complying with all regulatory requirements. As such, we are currently reviewing what actions, if any, may be necessary to comply with legislation set by New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in order to ensure that we can continue bringing our signature experience to our loyal guests.”
The manager of Patsy’s Pizzeria on the Upper West Side said he was not concerned with any major costs or disruptions to business at their location since the restaurant switched over to gas ovens during a renovation a few years back.
In a press conference on June 26th, Mayor Eric Adams alluded to finding a balance between protecting businesses and protecting the air quality. Adams said, “The public can weigh in without throwing pizza over my gate.” He added, “I’m going to call the person who threw pizza over my gate to tell him he needs to bring a vegan pie to me, so we can sit down,” in reference to LoBaido, who bills himself as “Freedom Fighter #1.” “I want to hear his side of this,” Adams said.