Boiler Conversions: We’re Nearly There Op-Ed

| 27 Apr 2015 | 06:31

Air pollution is not only a serious environmental threat facing New York City but also a serious public health concern.

Heavy heating oils used in some apartment building boilers emit air pollutants known as fine particulate matter, which is linked to lung disease, heart conditions, and asthma. A 2013 study by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that reducing the use of heavy heating oils would contribute to 780 fewer deaths, 1,600 fewer emergency department visits for asthma, and 460 fewer hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular disease annually.

Only one percent of the city’s buildings still burn these heavy heating oils, but together they create nearly 90 percent of the total soot pollution in the city. That’s more than all the cars and trucks in the City combined.

In 2011 the NYC Department of Environmental Protection finalized a rule to gradually phase out the use of heavy heating oils. The rule requires that all buildings burning No. 6, the most damaging heating oil, must convert to a cleaner alternative by June 30, 2015. Cleaner alternatives include ultra-low sulfur No. 2 oil, biodiesel, natural gas, or steam. Buildings using No. 4 oil must convert to a cleaner alternative by 2030.

Full compliance with this rule could reduce the amount of fine particulate matter emitted from buildings by up to 63 percent and lower the overall concentration of pollutants in the city’s air by 5 percent. It’s a goal well worth achieving.

While most Upper West Side property owners already switched from No. 6 oil to alternative fuel sources, 57 buildings in our neighborhood still burn No. 6 oil. My office tracked down those building owners and notified them of the upcoming deadline by phone and mail. District 6 is close to our goal of 100 percent compliance to further protect the health and safety of residents across the Upper West Side and the city. Special thanks goes to my intern, Matthew Higgins, who researched all of this information and continues to be instrumental to bringing our UWS buildings to full compliance.

If you believe your building is burning dirty oil or if you have questions about converting options, please reach out to my office at 212-873-0282 or

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side on the City Council