New York in air conditioning crackdown

New York stores face fines of $250 over their air conditioning. Picture: Getty
New York stores face fines of $250 over their air conditioning. Picture: Getty
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New York shops and businesses are to be banned from “air-conditioning the sidewalks”, depriving people of respite in sweltering summer months.

Under an expanded law that took full effect this week, most stores and restaurants could be fined $250 or more if they keep their doors or windows open while running the A/C.

But as temperatures soared into the 90s, some air-conditioned shops and eateries around Times Square still had doors propped like open arms, beckoning passers-by to come into the cold.

“When the doors are open, it’s better for business,” says William Shalders, who manages Il Forno, an Italian restaurant that had its front door open; he said he wasn’t aware of the law.

The law was passed last autumn, but first-time violators received only warnings until 1 July. No violations or fines have yet been issued since the change.

Some New Yorkers haven’t waited for that to happen. Resident Dee Vitale Henle has taken it upon herself to close doors when she sees shops have them open.

“It still bothers me because we’re in a terrible energy crisis in this world,” she says.

There’s no exact measure of how much power goes out the door with air conditioning at city shops.

City sustainability officials have said closing doors at 10,000 businesses could cut 3,600 cars’ worth of emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming.

But some business owners say the city shouldn’t dictate what they do with their doors and with their own budgets.

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has suggested New York’s rule smacks of nagging, casting Democrat Bill de Blasio as “not only our mayor – he’s also our dad.”

The new law expands a pioneering 2008 measure that applied only to large chain stores and inspired a similar law in Washington DC which also recently extended its measure to smaller shops.

New York issued 308 warnings and 19 violation notices to chain stores last year, compared to 64 warnings and no violations in 2014, according to Consumer Affairs Department data.

Inspections, conducted in response to complaints and during regular patrols, rose from about 600 to 1,500.

Both New York and Washington have found enforcement complicated because inspectors couldn’t always immediately discern whether a store met size criteria. The new laws eliminate those thresholds.