New Pizza Reg’s Real Aim: Scrub Particles That Cause Asthma, Not Fight Climate Change

A tabloid exclusive about a D.E.P. proposal concerning coal and wood fired pizza ovens stirred up controversy. However, a careful reading of the regulation by Straus News clarifies that the rule is not a bid to combat climate change, but rather one aimed at reducing particulates in the air that cause asthma and other breathing problems.

| 05 Jul 2023 | 11:19

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 delicacies — 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 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. Rather, it says the proposed rule is meant to mitigate the negative health consequences these machines trigger 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 coal or wood fired ovens to install controls — known as scrubbers — that reduce the particulate matter emissions they generate by at least 75%. If a 75% reduction is not feasible, restaurants must decrease their ovens’ emissions by 25% 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.

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.”

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 indicate 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.”

In a statement to Straus News, a Grimaldi’s representative affirmed the pizzeria’s commitment to maintaining the restaurant's “award-winning taste while complying with all regulatory requirements.” 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 26, Mayor Eric Adams alluded to finding a balance between protecting businesses and protecting the city’s air quality. Adams also requested a sit down with the Staten Island man who tossed pizza slices over the City Hall fence, provided the protestor brings a vegan pie to the pow wow.