NEW YORK -- New rules proposed by the city Department of Environmental Protection are aimed at reducing emissions at pizzerias and other buildings. The owners of wood- and coal-fired ovens may face major financial decisions.
At Capizzi Pizzeria in Hell's Kitchen, the brick oven brings a kiss of crisp. Owner Joe Calcagno built it himself in 2008.
"It's actually the focal point of our business," Calcagno said.
Calcagno learned the trade from his dad and now shares the secrets with his children. He is concerned he may have to make a change under the city's new proposed rules.
"I'm in business 40 years in the restaurant business," he said, "and now at the end of my career, I have debt that I have accumulated since COVID. And the city just comes up with another crazy idea every time."
The DEP wants restaurants like Capizzi to potentially slice emissions by 75%, saying in a statement, "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."
For some, that could mean machinery costing tens of thousands of dollars.
"I'll do it," Calcagno said. "Pay for it. Why won't the city put their money where their mouth is? You know how many pizzas I have to sell to pay for that $20,000 oven?"
The rules would also apply to some residential buildings, which have started to comply by converting their boilers to capture carbon dioxide.
The DEP claims it did consider the cost of emission control devices when drafting these rules and acknowledges the challenges of restaurants to find space for these new accommodations, but made no mention of reimbursing restauranteurs for the architectural evaluation or installation.
"We're not talking about a $40,000 vehicle," Calcagno emphasized about his product. "We're talking about a very inexpensive meal. So we're going to have to pass it on. Already our customers already endured so much with the supply chain and with everything else."
Records show about 100 restaurants use coal- or wood-burning ovens in the city.
The public has until July 27 to share their opinions on the rules before the DEP makes a final vote. To share a comment, click here.
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