A couple on the Upper East Side are concerned about thick black smoke hanging over Yorkville that they say regularly billows out of a residential building on 89th Street and is polluting the area.
“Almost every half hour, and it’s thick black smoke, and we’ve tried everything,” said Carlo Schweizer, who lives with his wife Margaret on York Avenue between 88th Street and 89th Street, and whose apartment overlooks an area where the smoke is highly visible.
Schweizer said he and his wife have contacted local elected officials as well as city, state and federal agencies in an attempt to find out what is causing the smoke and if it can be mitigated in any way.
The building in question has two addresses: 400 East 89th Street and 401 East 88th Street. Public records show it is owned by 1700 First Avenue LLC, which according to a boiler permit filed with the Dept. of Buildings, is connected to Solil Goldman Investments. Records on file with the Dept. of Finance indicate the building contains over 100 rent stabilized units, though the total number of units is unknown.
A call made to the building manager, listed as Adam Goldblatt in Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development documents, went unreturned.
“The smoke is coming into [our apartment], it’s pollution,” said Schweizer. “There seems to be no end of it, nobody is paying attention and they keep doing it.”
Assemblymember Dan Quart’s office said their records indicate the building is burning Number 4 heating fuel and has been for over a year. “But burning it certainly shouldn’t cause the kind of smoke from that photo,” said Amanda Wallwin, Quart’s chief of staff, referring to a photo of the smoke provided by the Schweizers.
Although the building falls outside of Quart’s district on the Upper East Side, he has made air quality and eradicating dirty heating fuel a policy wedge during his time in office and is knowledgeable on the topic.
Heating oil Number 4 and Number 6 are considered the dirtiest among those burned in buildings in New York. According to new regulations adopted by the city in 2011, both fuels are in the process of being phased out of nearly 10,000 residential buildings in NYC.
Those regulations say that by 2030, or upon boiler or burner replacement (whichever is sooner), all buildings must convert to one of the cleanest fuels, which includes ultra-low sulfur Number 2 fuel, biodiesel, natural gas, or steam.
A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency said the agency has no information on the Schweizers’ complaint and referred comment to the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation, which did not return a request for comment by press time.
EPA spokesperson Elias Rodriguez said residents concerned about smoke pollution should call 311, which will refer the complaint to the DEC or the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection.
Schweizer said his neighbors don’t seem to care but it’s affecting he and his wife’s quality of life.
“We feel something should be done to stop this,” he said. “The air is polluted anyway with all the construction that’s going on, and this makes it worse.”