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Controversy Erupts After NYC Announces Crackdown on Coal and Wood-fired Pizzerias

Published: June 28, 2023
People walk outside of the Brooklyn pizzeria Grimaldi's which makes coal oven pizzas on June 26, 2023 in New York City. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed new rules that would require pizzerias with coal and wooden-fire ovens installed prior to 2016 to cut carbon emissions by 75%. The DEP has stated that wood and coal-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality. Restaurants with the stoves would be forced to install emission-control air-filter devices. (Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New Yorkers are up-in-arms following proposed new rules by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that targets coal-and-wood-fired ovens in the city’s pizzerias for spewing too many emissions that the city says contributes to poor air quality and climate change.

“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,” Ted Timbers, a DEP spokesman, said in a statement on June 25.

The proposed rules would require all pizzerias with the offending ovens installed prior to May 2016 to purchase expensive emission-control devices. 

One Brooklyn pizza slinger told the New York Post that he has already spent $20,000 on an air filtering system in anticipation of the new rules. 

“Oh yeah, it’s a big expense!” Paul Giannone, owner of Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint told the NY Post, adding that, “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.”

He said the air filter is “expensive and it’s a huge hassle.”

Other famous pizzerias in the city that face the same fate include Lombardi’s in Little Italy, Arturo’s in Soho, and John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. A city official said that under 100 pizzerias in total will be impacted by the new rules. 

Another restaurateur, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Post that negotiations are currently underway with DEP officials over whether or not to grandfather in or exempt certain restaurants from the possible mandate.

“This is an unfunded mandate and it’s going to cost us a fortune not to mention ruining the taste of the pizza, totally destroying the product,” the owner of a coal-fired oven said. 

“If you [expletive] around with the temperature in the oven you change the taste. That pipe, that chimney, it’s that size to create the perfect updraft, keeps the temp perfect, it’s an art as much as a science. You take away the char, the thing that makes the pizza taste great, you kill it,” he claimed, adding that he doubts the environment will change much with the restriction of a small number of ovens. 


‘New York Pizza Party’

The proposed new rules prompted New Yorker Scott LoBaido to declare a “New York Pizza Party,” a play on words derived from the “Boston Tea Party.”

In a now-viral Twitter post, LoBaido said, ”The woke-[explective] idiots who run this city are doing everything in its power to destroy it … we have the most violent raging crime rate ever. We are being invaded by illegal immigrants who are being treated way better than our homeless veterans,” he ranted before declaring the Party and throwing slices of pizza over a gate in front of City Hall prior to being confronted by police.

The mandate will force the targeted establishments to hire pricey engineers or architects to assess the feasibility of installing emission controlling devices in an attempt to reduce particle emissions by 75 percent. 

If the feasibility studies indicate that a reduction of 75 percent cannot be achieved, or that no emissions control devices can be installed, the restaurant must identify an emissions control scheme that could drop emissions by 25 percent or they will have to provide to the City an explanation as to why no emissions control can be installed.

“The restaurant will be allowed to apply for a variance or waiver, but must provide evidence to prove a hardship,” the New York Post article reads.

DEP officials said they consulted with an advisory committee prior to proposing the new rules and that they acknowledge that not all pizzerias will be able to comply.

“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,” officials said.

They added that “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.”