Last month local residents woke up to a shocking headline: “On Upper East Side (Gasp!), Some of the City’s Dirtiest Air.” Surely they thought that someone must be to blame for this egregious affront! No sooner did they turn the page did they learn that the responsible parties are the very buildings many of these bewildered denizens currently live in!
The study found that Community District 8 had especially high levels of sulfur dioxide, which is generated by burning heavy heating oil. This pollution is directly caused by the large amount of buildings that continue to burn the dirtiest grades of heating oil known as No. 4 and No. 6 oil (literally unrefined sludge from the bottom of the barrel). The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading environmental organization dedicated in part to air quality issues, comments that “buildings burning dirty oil constitute about 1% of all structures in the City, yet they produce more soot pollution than all of the cars and trucks on city roads, combined.” As a result, air in NYC regularly fails to meet federal standards for soot and ozone and even the American Lung Association gives our air quality a failing grade. Our air does not have to be like this. New York City deserves better.
In a perfect world (achem, one day in the future), all buildings would emit zero carbon and be powered and heated by various forms of renewable and sustainable forms of energy such as wind, solar, waves, or geothermal. However, making a full switch to renewables today is simply not an option for many buildings due to cost, feasibility, and infrastructure constraints. So what can be done right now to make a difference?
Upper Green Side is joining together with other local community leaders to launch a new campaign to improve air quality on the Upper East Side. The group’s mission is to get the word out to Upper East Side landlords and co-op boards that switching to biodiesel fuel is one step they can take toward significantly improving the local air quality.
Biodiesel simply means fuel made from plants, as opposed to fossil fuels like oil and coal. It can be made from some fruits, nuts and, most commonly, corn. However, not all biodiesels are created equal. One of the most sustainable forms of biodiesel is made from used cooking oil, and therefore does not compete with energy and resources needed for the food supply (unlike corn ethanol). Biodiesel can also be put into boilers currently using No. 2 and No. 4 heating oil without any modifications.
The sun is starting to shine so get on out of your apartment building (one that could quite possibly be burning dirty heating oil) and stop by today’s press conference to learn more about how you can help clean the air in your neighborhood!
Local community leaders will launch a new campaign to improve air quality on
the Upper East Side
Wednesday, March 31 at 2:00 p.m.
Jessica Lappin – City Council Member for Upper East Side
Michael Auerbach – President, Upper Green Side
Brent Baker – CEO, Tri-State Biodiesel
Tom Torre – CFO, METRO Biofuels
Teri Slater – East 86th Street Merchants and Residents Association
Cos Spagnoletti – East 79th Street Neighborhood Association
Northeast corner of 67th Street and First Avenue
(Rain or shine. There is a nearby awning if weather is bad.)
- Coalition Launches East Side Biofuel Campaign [Our Town]