Wearing a green tie and flanked by New York City’s green mascot, Birdie, Mayor Bill De Blasio kicked off New York City’s 44th annual Earth Day in Union Square today by announcing plans to update and strengthen the city’s air pollution control code. “We’re going to work with our friends, the city council, to make the law stronger,” he said. “It is the best tool we have to insure that every possible form of pollution in the air is addressed and addressed stringently.”
De Blasio went on to tout strides in universal pre-k rather than providing specifics about the proposed code revision, but a press release clarifies that he’s supporting amendments that would focus on sources of pollution that currently have “little or no emission control requirements,” including “tiny particulates generated by commercial char broilers, fireplaces, food trucks, and refrigeration vehicles, which are a leading contributor to asthma.”
Tomorrow the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection will hold a hearing regarding Intro 271. The proposed amendments — sponsored by Lower East Side council member Margaret S. Chin, among others — aim to outlaw fireplaces as primary sources of heat and would require new fireplaces to be operated with natural gas or renewable fuel rather than firewood. Among other things, it would require emissions control devices on new cook stoves and on char broilers that cook more than 875 pounds of meat per week. Mobile food vending units using auxiliary engines that run on alternative fuel would get certain registration fees waived.
According to the health department, commercial char broilers emit 1,400 tons of particulate matter per year, and are responsible for about 400 deaths annually. “If all commercial char broilers had had control technology installed, the reduction in ambient PM2.5 concentrations could have prevented nearly 350 of these premature deaths each year,” the mayor’s office says.
The mayor stated repeatedly that every citizen has a role in helping to keep the environment clean. He made it known that he acts as the “recycling czar” in his own household. “I make sure that if something isn’t put in the right container, that’s corrected immediately. Nothing makes me more upset than paper thrown in the trash can.”
He claimed there were new plans and policies for New York in the works addressing environmental issues. “You’re going to see a lot in the coming months as we find ways to reduce emissions in this city, as we find ways to retrofit buildings, things that will make a huge impact on our future.”
Union Square’s Earth Day festivities included yoga in the park, a concert that goes till 7 p.m., and booths featuring over 70 environmental exhibitors.