NYC's Climate Change Rules Ignite Pizza Oven Controversy, Flaming Rebukes Delivered in a New York Minute

Eric Risberg

Recently proposed climate change rules in New York City are pitting traditional wood and coal-fired pizza ovens against regulators. The original pizza joints in New York utilized coal-fired ovens, which were cheaper than burning wood.

The city’s drafted regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection mandate that restaurants having ovens installed before May 2016 must invest in costly emission-control devices. These devices are aimed at reducing carbon emissions and particulate matter by up to 75 percent. 

In a statement on Sunday, DEP spokesman Ted Timbers said:

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. This common-sense rule, developed with restaurant and environmental justice groups, requires a professional review of whether installing emission controls is feasible.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval of Local Law 38 in 2015 has paved the way for the implementation of these regulations. The mayor was roasted in a firestorm of criticism after being photographed in 2014 eating a slice of pizza using a fork and knife at Goodfellas on Staten Island.

FILE- In this Jan. 10, 2014 file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio eats pizza with a fork at Goodfellas Pizza in the Staten Island borough of New York. A charity auction website
FILE- In this Jan. 10, 2014 file photo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio eats pizza with a fork at Goodfellas Pizza in the Staten Island borough of New York. It was a rare misstep for one so otherwise skilled in political stagecraft. Most New Yorkers believe that pizza is eaten with your hands, not with tableware. (AP Photo/Staten Island Advance, Jan Somma-Hammel, File)

A city official suggested that under 100 restaurants total would be impacted, while one pizzeria operator, under the condition of anonymity, said that sensitive negotiations are underway with DEP officials on whether to grandfather in dozens of coal-and-wood-oven-fired pizza joints from the mandate.

Per the mandate, restaurants utilizing coal-and-wood-fired ovens are required to hire an engineer or architect to assess the feasibility of installing emission control devices that can achieve a 75 percent reduction in particulate emissions. If the assessment determines that a reduction of 75 percent or more is not achievable or that the installation of any emission controls is not feasible, the report must identify alternative emission controls capable of providing a minimum reduction of 25 percent. Additionally, the restaurant has the option to apply for a variance or waiver but must provide evidence demonstrating the hardship or difficulty.

The coal-fired pizza propagator fumed:

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. 

Feeling burnt by the city, he continued to fire back:

If you f—k 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

And for what? You really think that you’re changing the environment with these eight or nine pizza ovens?

Giannone, of Paulie Gee’s, claims that the air scrubbers will not affect the taste or texture of the pies, saying:

If someone is trying to say that putting the scrubber in changes the flavor of the pizza they’re just trying to save themselves $20,000. No, it doesn’t affect what’s going on inside the oven. No, it hasn’t changed the taste. It hasn’t changed the pizza. It hasn’t changed our product at all.

The department stated that it cooked up the regulation with a batch of restaurant owners and operators on an advisory committee. 

Of course, it only took a New York minute for the initiative to be raked over coals.

On Monday, Elon Musk tweeted:

This is utter bs. It won’t make a difference to climate change.

NYC Council Republican Minority Leader Joe Borelli wrote:

We will save the planet by putting 9 or 10 fantastic #NYC pizzerias out of business! Gunna really change things you guys!

Once-Democrat-turned-Republican Brooklyn Councilman Ari Kagan retweeted Borelli and took a slice out of city officials, writing:

Socialist Democrats believe Totonno’s pizza in Coney Island is a bigger threat to public safety than their defund NYPD and pro-criminal policies. We will stop them and this insanity.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman noted the half-baked proposal crossed a sacred cultural line, tweeting, “You don’t mess with a New Yorker’s pizza or bagels. Period.”



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