Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York city council just sent a chill down the spines of New York businesses: A new law forbids them from leaving their doors open when they have the air conditioning running.
On Wednesday, de Blasio signed the new law and tweeted:
Ever walked past a store’s open doors & felt a blast of cold air? A new law will change that & help our environment: http://t.co/PtbFdWcZip
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) October 7, 2015
The tweet linked to a press release that quoted de Blasio as adding: “I know I’m not the only one who has walked past open doors to feel a blast of cold air pouring out. We don’t need to be cooling our sidewalks! By requiring businesses to simply close the door, this bill is a win on multiple fronts, and is a small, but important part of our efforts to fight climate change.”
But the tweet led to its own blast — of comments from New Yorkers opposed to the new law or just plain skeptical about whether this should be a priority. And being New Yorkers, they spewed forth a bit of sarcasm as well.
Another reader was worried about wasting taxpayer money, not about wasting energy:
@BilldeBlasio this is great! Another wasteful agency can be put into place to enforce this useless law. But hey its only our money right?
— Charles McEnhill (@CharlesMcEnhill) October 8, 2015
And one questioned the city’s priorities:
@BilldeBlasio please focus on crime and homelessness, not cold air from a doorway. Might help you not be mediocre. Might.
— Taylor Hill (@taylorehill) October 7, 2015
Many sweltering pedestrians like getting a breath of cool relief when walking on the hot city streets during summer times. One reader said simply:
@BilldeBlasio um, I like that blast of cold air.
— sean (@s_sullivan) October 7, 2015
But there is little debate that letting cool air-conditioned air spill into the streets and skies of New York is a waste of energy, and the legislation in New York — enforcement mechanisms aside — attempts to help the city cut its energy use in the easiest ways possible, like energy efficiency.
The bill signed by de Blasio updates Local Law 38 of 2008, which already requires stores that are 4,000 square feet or larger, or part of a chain of five or more stores in New York City, to keep their doors closed when an air conditioner or central cooling system is running. The new legislation removes the size requirement, making this law applicable to businesses of any size.
“Making sure businesses close their doors during summer months when they are using air conditioning is a simple common sense measure that will not only conserve energy for the city, but it will also save small businesses money in the long run,” Council Member Donovan Richards said in a statement. “In order to reach our goal of drastically reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy anywhere we can is essential to making New York City cleaner and more sustainable.”
But where does that leave the city’s sweaty, smelly, sweltering masses?
Before air conditioning, people spent the summer hanging out on their porches, swimming and taking naps during the hottest part of the day. Public places were much more vibrant, though not always idyllic: In an essay for the New Yorker in 1998, playwright Arthur Miller describes how New Yorkers slept in the parks or on their fire escapes, ate ice chips from vendors’ carts and fought for spots on the beach at Coney Island in the summer in the 1920s.
Post staffer Ana Swanson took a look at how we all became addicted to air conditioning. De Blasio isn’t trying to get New Yorkers to kick the air conditioning habit, though. He and the city council are just trying to slam the door shut on one part of it.