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Smoky summer skies spur 3 NYC bills addressing air quality emergencies

The bills call for New York CIty to develop a citywide public notification plan, an emergency response protocol similar to those in extreme weather events and “spare the air days” that encourage people to reduce their emissions at home. 

Ashley Mastronardi

Oct 16, 2023, 5:50 PM

Updated 248 days ago

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It’s hard to forget the smoke that hit New York City during the Canada wildfires this summer.  In response, Council Member Lincoln Restler (D-33rd District) is proposing three bills that will address future air quality emergencies.   
They call for the city to develop a citywide public notification plan, an emergency response protocol similar to those in extreme weather events and “spare the air days” that encourage people to reduce their emissions at home. They’re also asking the city to open clean air centers, similar to those that are opened during extreme hot and cold weather.  
Restler says other parts of the country are well-equipped for emergencies like this, but because of climate change this is unchartered territory for New York City.  He says wildfires are most likely to cause air quality issues, but the bills can also apply to situations like smoke from large fires or events like 9/11, in which the air quality in Lower Manhattan was compromised. Regardless, Restler says the city needs to be more diligent about emergency situations in general. 
“The exact policies that need to be implemented vary from different types of weather emergencies. The general approach is the same, it’s critically important that the mayor and his agencies communicate early and clearly about the dangers that we’re facing and that they prepare for the worst-case scenarios,” he told News 12 New York outside of City Hall.  “Unfortunately, when we had the terrible flooding just two weeks ago from Ophelia. I was out in South Williamsburg for hours clearing out catch basins with sewage water up to my waist. There was no communication practically in advance from City Hall, and there was no planning.”
The bills have already been introduced to the City Council. The next step is to get a hearing and then the bills will be voted on.


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