Plans To Control Emissions From NYC Pizzerias Spark Backlash

In many cases, change is good. Change can help people learn and grow. But when it comes to New Yorkers and their pizza, it isn't surprising that a lot of them want their world-famous pies to stay just as they are. So when a recent proposal was introduced by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that would require the city's pizzerias with coal- or wood-fired ovens to alter their pizza furnaces, an uproar was inevitable, per BBC News. Essentially, pizza ovens will have to be inspected to determine whether or not their exhaust systems are up to par in filtering pollutants. If not, special scrubbers must be installed to do so. The proposal seeks to cut carbon emissions by 75% and would only apply to those ovens installed before 2016. The scrubbers/filters could cost restaurant proprietors upward of $20,000, in addition to regular inspection and maintenance costs.

Those outspoken against the measure claim the costs would be financially devastating, particularly to small businesses, who would have to pass those costs along to customers, and that the changes could impact the flavor of pizza altogether. In response, one such critic vented his frustrations by hurling pizza pies at New York City Hall in Lower Manhattan. But, according to BBC News, the DEP argues that the proposal is an effort to give New Yorkers healthier air to breathe, claiming, "Wood- and coal-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality."

A slice of New York

New York has a world-renowned reputation as having some of the best (if not the best) pizza in the world. This has been attributed to decades-old, family recipes, the mineral-rich city water, and coal- and wood-fired pizza ovens. Pizzeria owners and those passionate about their favorite pizza (and, really, who in New York City doesn't have one?) are understandably concerned about how the proposal would affect their beloved tomato and cheese treats. But those in favor of the measure claim the hubbub is unnecessary, and that the DEP is merely attempting to ensure that older pizza ovens are complying with modern regulations for the sake of public and environmental health.

DEP officials also claim that the proposal will affect less than 100 of the city's pizza joints and that some restaurants won't even have to follow the new rule if their kitchens/ovens can't accommodate the changes. Still, it's a touchy subject for a food-centric city like New York which is still processing the news that gas stoves will cease to be installed in the near future. While various studies have indicated the relationship between oven smoke and increased pollution, the impact of this new proposal on the environment won't be clear until the changes are established.