Authors: Vishakha Darbha, James Fallows
About This Series
Ideas and provocations from our contributors
Town of Huntington, NY - News Details
11/15/2018 - Lupinacci Reminds Residents of Leaf Blower Hours of Operation, How to Report a Noise DisturbanceHuntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci issued a friendly reminder to residents and landscapers operating leaf blowers in the Town of Huntington.
“As you perform your fall cleanup projects, please adhere to the Town’s acceptable hours of operation for leaf blowers,” said Supervisor Lupinacci. “The Town strives to balance the needs of property owners who wish to maintain their properties with the rights of residents who wish to enjoy their homes in peace.”
To file a leaf blower noise disturbance complaint, use the Town’s At Your Service portal on the Department of Public Safety page:http://www.huntingtonny.gov/public-safety
To speed up the Town’s ability to enforce Town Code, leaf blower noise disturbance complaints should include the following information:
· Date(s) and approximate time(s) of violation(s)· Address where the violation is occurring· Whether it is known if the property owner or a landscaping company is operating the leaf blower· If a landscaping company is operating the leaf blower, if possible, include the name and any known/observed contact information for the company
The Town Code permits the use of leaf blowers for two hours per day on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM and for one hour per day on weekends and legal holidays between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Leaf blower usage outside of those hours and time limitations will be deemed a noise disturbance.
We strongly suggest you e-mail council members to ask for legislation because the gas leaf blower situation is so much more than just hours of operation.
Fumes, pollution and ruined Sunday mornings make leaf blowers a nuisance. But they’re also dangerous. The emissions and fine particulate matter these devices kick up are hazardous to the health of both gardeners and homeowners. All for the sake of moving leaves from one corner of a lawn to another.
As a teacher, I frequently hear the drone of leaf blowers from within my classroom. The noise is distracting enough while trying to discuss Brontë or Tolstoy, but outside, where I often eat lunch under the treetops, the nonstop noise seems to broadcast a dire warning: These pristine grounds come at a terrible price.
Most leaf blowers use two-stroke engines—lightweight, compact, cheap sources of power for lawn mowers, tree trimmers and snowblowers. The problem with these crude motors is that their intake and exhaust functions occur at the same time, meaning the fuel mixes with oil. A large share of the gasoline is then spewed out unburned, as an aerosol in the exhaust. Such fumes have been found to increase the risk of cancer, heart disease and asthma.
Children playing outdoors and people who work from home frequently contend with this menace, but landscapers suffer the most. Since many don’t wear masks, they breathe in fumes, dust and spores while enduring hours of high-volume engine noise—another health risk. According to a study by Edmunds, an automotive-information site, hydrocarbon emissions from 30 minutes of leaf blowing are comparable to those of driving a pickup truck from Texas to Alaska.
Leaf blowers also pose a severe threat to the living leaves still attached to trees and bushes—collateral damage from blowers aimed at the ground. Air blasts of up to 200 miles an hour can demolish the habitats of bees and other insects and small creatures, which are essential to their ecosystems. The dead leaves that blowers target also help prevent moisture from evaporating at trees’ bases, and nourish the soil that sustains plant life. I might ask my students to consider the irony here: A tool meant to beautify our city parks, backyard gardens and highway meridians is actually destroying them.
Landscape associations and manufacturers insist these hyperpolluting lawn tools aren’t bothersome or harmful if used properly and protest that leaf blowers are necessary for the hard work of removing leaves and debris. It’s true that dead leaves on a lawn don’t disintegrate, and a return to the rake doesn’t seem likely.
Leafy trees and green lawns should no longer be our gold standard: We need to rethink our yards entirely. Each fall, let leaves die on the ground, allow deciduous trees to generate new growth, and consider adding a rock garden with succulents or other “hardscapes” that don’t require leaf upkeep, and also save water. Outdoors, sustainable is beautiful.
Ms. Bernhard is a writer and teacher in New York.
What can we do? Call or email members of our town board. Speak out at the next public meeting.
Consumer group recommends electric lawnmowers
|NEWSDAY, May 14,2018|
The sound of silence
Last month the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously resolution No. 1249-2017 to study the feasibility of using alternatives to gas powered maintenance equipment.
RESOLUTION NO. 297 -2017, DIRECTING THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS TO STUDY THE FEASIBILITY OF USING ALTERNATIVES TO GAS POWERED MAINTENANCE EQUIPMENT
WHEREAS, the County of Suffolk has made environmental protection and water quality a top priority; and
WHEREAS, the County is always exploring opportunities to reduce nitrogen pollutants entering our ground water supply; and
WHEREAS, national organizations including the American Green Zone Alliance, as well as local organizations such as Huntington Citizens Appeal for Leaf-blower Moderation, identify gas-powered leaf-blowers as a concerning source of pollution; and
WHEREAS, South Pasadena, California, working with the American Green Zone Alliance, have completed a three-year conversion of their gas powered equipment to all low- noise, zero-emissions equipment; and
WHEREAS, locally, the Village of East Quogue has also begun studying the efficacy of such a conversion, as well as developing a pilot program; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance of all grounds at County facilities; now, therefore be it
1st RESOLVED, that the County Department of Public Works is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to take such action as may be necessary to complete a Study for the Feasibility of Using Alternatives to Gas Powered Maintenance Equipment, pursuant to Section C8-2 (A) of the Suffolk County Charter; and be it further
2nd RESOLVED, that the Department of Public Works will report their findings and recommendations to the County Executive and the County Legislature, within 120 days of the effective date of this resolution; and be it further
3rd RESOLVED, that this Legislature, being the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), Environmental Conservation Law Article 8 and Chapter 450 of the Suffolk County Code, hereby finds and determines that this law constitutes a Type II action, pursuant to Section 617.5(c), (20), (21) and (27) of Title 6 of New York Code of Rules and Regulations (“NYCRR”), in that the action constitutes routine or continuing agency administration and management, not including new programs or major reordering of priorities that may affect the environment, by the gathering of information, including basic data collection and research, and preliminary planning processes necessary to formulate a proposal for an action, but does not commit the County to commence or approve an action; since this law is a Type II action, the Legislature has no further responsibilities under SEQRA. The Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is hereby directed to circulate any appropriate SEQRA notices of determination of non-applicability or non-significance in accordance with this resolution.
/s/ Steven Bellone
County Executive of Suffolk County
Date: May 2, 2017
|Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this photo taken on Sunday, March 27, 2016.|
The use of gas-powered leaf blowers could be restricted in Oyster Bay to address problems with noise and air pollution, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said Tuesday at the town board meeting.
“We’re going to do something about this,” Saladino said. “You will clearly see changes to our code in a way that suits the needs of all.”
Saladino said he has reached out to Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano for information about that city’s ordinance which prohibits the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to Sept. 30.
Planning and Development Commissioner Elizabeth Maccarone said the gas-powered leaf blowers, as opposed to quieter and lower-powered electric blowers, cause problems for residents.
“When you drive around you see the dust ball, the dirt, the fertilizer and all that is being thrown up into the air and the children are outside playing, people are trying use their back yards,” Maccarone said. “It’s the noise, it’s what being thrown up into the atmosphere.”
Plainview resident Greg Siragusa told the board on Tuesday that he’s concerned about the health and quality of life impact from “the invasion of leaf blowers into my neighborhood.”
On Banning Leaf Blowers
|Monty Rakusen/Getty Images|
New Yorkers who leave the city for the suburbs often do so for three reasons: schools, space and silence. The silence, it turns out, can be a problem.
Most suburban streets are certainly free of blaring horns, wailing sirens and, sometimes, even people. But come springtime, they vibrate with the hum of lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers and leaf blowers; the accompanying noise continues until the last leaves fall from the trees in early December.
In Maplewood, N.J., the desire to keep all that space manicured is on a collision course with a longing for quiet.
Disgruntled residents say that noise from lawn equipment rattles windows and eardrums, while the fumes pollute the air. Landscapers and other homeowners, meanwhile, insist that the equipment is necessary to maintain a town that looks as if it’s from a Norman Rockwell painting, with Tudor- and Queen Anne-style mansions framed by green lawns and leafy trees.
Now Maplewood is considering a ban on one of the noisiest and dirtiest tools in the landscaper’s arsenal: the leaf blower.
On March 21, the Township Committee will vote on an ordinance to prohibit commercial use of blowers from May 15 through Sept. 30. The rule would expand a pilot program enacted last spring, increasing the fine for violations to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for the second offense. Stricter limits would be set on the days and hours that professionals could use blowers the rest of the year. If it passes, Maplewood would join a growing number of communities that have curbed the use of leaf blowers.
The noise “is just something that gets into your bones and even when it stops, you’re still hearing that sound,” said Jamie Banks, the founder of Quiet Communities, a group that advocates quieter lawn maintenance equipment. “And it’s not just the noise. It’s the pollution.”
Lawns are a big deal in the suburbs, especially in a community where a four-bedroom house can cost over $1 million. Town council meetings attracted dozens of anxious landscapers and frustrated residents. On a local Facebook page, SOMa Lounge, residents complained that the pilot ban hamstrung their gardeners, leaving their yards looking unkempt, with grass suffocating beneath piles of clippings. Supporters of the rule cheered the silence.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought this leaf blower issue would have been so controversial,” said Nancy Adams, 59, the deputy mayor of Maplewood and a driving force behind the new rule.
Leaf blowers are beloved and reviled for the same reason: They are powerful. Strapped in a pack to a worker’s back, these blowers plow through leaves, grass clippings, debris and light snow, making it possible for a landscaper to quickly clear a property. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report lists leaf blowers as a common noise that can contribute to permanent hearing loss.
Most landscapers use leaf blowers with two-stroke engines, which are light enough to carry but produce significant exhaust and noise. The gas and oil mix together, and about a third of it does not combust. As a result, pollutants that have been linked to cancers, heart disease, asthma and other serious ailments escape into the air.
In 2011, Edmunds, the car reviewer, compared a two-stroke-engine leaf blower with a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck, finding that a half-hour of yardwork produced the same amount of hydrocarbon emissions as a 3,887-mile drive in the truck. In other words: Blow leaves from your lawn, or drive from Maplewood to Juneau, Alaska. Your choice.
Landscapers say that the leaf blower is an essential tool and, when used properly, is not a nuisance. “If they’re used at half speed, which is significantly lower in noise volume, they’re much more efficient,” said Paul Mendelsohn, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. As for the leaf blower bans: “I really don’t think they’re fair,” he said.
Two seemingly unrelated trends may also be contributing to the problem. The number of people working from home is growing and so too is the lawn care industry. Between 2002 and 2016, the number of professional ground maintenance workers, including supervisors, grew by 85 percent to 1.6 million, according to Quiet Communities.
What does it look like when those two forces collide? For that, I spoke with Susan Greeley, 48, a film programmer who works out of her three-bedroom house in Maplewood. She moved from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, three years ago in search of quiet but has instead found this: Every Tuesday, the landscapers arrive at 8 a.m. For the next seven hours, they move from one house to the next, filling her home with cacophony.
At times, the noise is so loud she has to retreat to the basement to take work calls, and she is unable to watch the films she needs to review. “We were basically trapped in our home with this deafening noise and this disgusting smell,” she said. “It’s far beyond an annoyance.”
Last year’s ban, she said, “was fantastic,” reducing the intrusion substantially.
But landscaping troubles are not universal. After all, misery is relative. Erika Imranyi, 38, a book editor who moved from Jersey City to South Orange, next to Maplewood, in November finds her new neighborhood “eerily quiet,” although she has yet to experience a suburban summer.
“There was one car alarm in Jersey City that would go off constantly,” she recalled. “It would honk for a few minutes and then stop, and you’d have this moment of relief, and then suddenly it would start again and you’d think you were losing your mind. I’ll take a leaf blower any day.”
James Nathenson, 68, a retired banker who lives in Maplewood, said, “It’s never been to me an issue that is worthy of a lot of agitation.” Instead of passing new laws, Mr. Nathenson suggests that the town enforce existing rules that limit hours and decibels. “See how that works,” he said.
Indeed, enforcement can be a problem. Nearby Montclair has had a similar ban in place since 1994, and some landscapers flout it, arguing that it is unevenly enforced, partly because the town uses leaf blowers to maintain public property. “I don’t look at it as breaking the law, I look at it as I’m doing my job,” said Richard Galioto, an owner of King and I Landscaping in Bloomfield, which services Montclair. Mr. Galioto is a vocal critic of the policy, which he thinks is discriminatory. “I’ll do it 365 days a year if I have to,” he said.
So that leaves people like Fred Chichester, 79, of Montclair, to play the role of leaf blower police. When he hears the blowers roar, he gets into his 1998 Ford Escort wagon, one of his seven cars, and looks for the culprits, suing them in municipal court for violating the ban. He has taken landscapers to court about 20 times over the years.
“The local judge knows him well,” said his wife, Patricia C. Kenschaft, 77, a retired math professor who mows her lawn with a manual reel mower. “He usually wins.”
Ultimately, landscapers say that restrictions breed shabbier results. “The properties aren’t as pretty as we’d like them to be,” said Alan Bella Jr., a landscaper who services Maplewood. “It comes down to cosmetics.”
Cosmetics, though, are a matter of taste. Must a lawn be perfectly clean to be perfect?
More sustainable plantings, for example, require less maintenance. Leaving leaves and grass clippings to mulch in place would reduce the need for blowers, and add nutrients to the soil. And landscapers could invest in cleaner and quieter equipment. “There are other ways to do the job,” Dr. Banks, of Quiet Communities, said. “Landscaping used to be more than scorched earth cleanup.”
The Medical Society of the State of New York recently passed, a landmark resolution addressing the negative health effects of the toxins and harmful noise created by gas leaf blowers. Suffolk County has received an "F" in air quality from the American Lung Association for the past 15 years. In one hour, one gas leaf blower produces as much smog as 17 cars. One half hour of one gas leaf blower's use is equal to one car driving 440miles. Gas leaf blowers utilize a highly polluting 2-stroke engine of which 30% of the blower's fuel is sent into our air. India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other developing countries are eliminating 2-stroke engines because of the high pollution and serious health effects they produce.
It is crazy, that we in our developed nation, actually pay landscapers weekly to deposit toxins, carcinogens and fine particulate matter from gas leaf blowers, even when there are no leaves, right to our front doors.
Tell your landscaper and town council to ban/restrict gas leaf blowers so we can all breathe easier.
Huntington CALM goes on a field trip to the Long Island Horticultural Research Lab to see state of the art Lithium Ion commercial lawn equipment.