You may have seen in the news this week about a new pizza oven law in NYC that will create restrictions for pizzerias and potentially ruin everything for us pizza lovers. I am here to tell you that now only is this not new, it will also not ruin pizza in NYC. NYC Environmental Protection passed legislation in 2015 (which went into effect in 2016) that added a requirement for anyone using a wood- or coal-burning furnace. In an effort to prevent particulate matter from burning off the oven and into the air, pizzerias using these ovens would have to install emissions suppression systems called “scrubbers.” Those with existing ovens had until 2020 to do it and anyone building a new oven as of 2016 had to do it before opening.
We love the fact that NYC has more old coal pizza ovens than any other city, many of which we visit on our NYC pizza tours. Most pizzerias already complied and installed scrubbers, which go toward the top of the oven’s ventilation system, usually on the roof. They spray moisture into the flue and that moisture pulls down schmutz so it doesn’t go into the air. This isn’t about climate change or global warming, it’s just about breathing air. I don’t know if regulating fewer than 100 pizzerias is going to make a big difference, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that this isn’t new legislation, it doesn’t impact the flavor of pizza, and lots of pizzerias have already complied. The new chatter about it is all because the city never enforced it (something else came up in 2020 that got in the way) and now they’re looking at it again. Installing scrubbers will cost pizzerias at least $10-20k plus more for maintenance, so it’s certainly not going to make any pizzerias operators happy.
The NYC pizza oven law isn’t a big deal for pizzerias (I talk to MANY of them every day) so there is no need to worry. The biggest threat to pizza in NYC is the $1 slice and that’s already essentially gone. So enjoy your week and rest easy!
- This piece from The Guardian pulls together facts and interviews with actual pizzeria owners
- Here’s the original article from the New York Post, which is a terrible piece willed with bad takes on incomplete information.
- I posted this video to explain the situation
- Read more about coal ovens here
- Read about my search for old coal ovens in NYC here
- This is the actual legislation
- Information about the virtual public hearing regarding this legislation on July 27 will be posted here