In a move that’s stirring up quite the controversy, New York City has just given the green light to a stringent new regulation aimed at reducing smoky pollutants from pizzerias and matzah bakeries. Under this mandate, these beloved institutions, known for their decades-old wood- and coal-fired stoves, must slash their emissions by a whopping 75%.

Mayor Eric Adams’ Department of Environmental Protection is the driving force behind this initiative, set to roll out on April 27. Already, some businesses have shelled out over $600,000 in preparation for the impending decree, sparking outrage among pizza aficionados and small business owners alike.

“You’re going after pizza? Glorious New York pizza?” lamented Mike Dabin in a recent online tirade directed at the city DEP. “Can’t you go after Diesel Trucks instead of pizza ovens?”

The stakes are high for these establishments. While businesses using wood and anthracite stoves can apply for a variance, they must provide evidence of their inability to comply with the mandate. And the concerns are valid – pizza lovers fear that the very essence of their favorite slices might be compromised in the pursuit of cleaner air.

However, Mayor Adams stands firm in his defense of the mandate, citing the urgent need to tackle pollution in the city, which recently earned the title of the most expensive place in the country to grab a slice of pizza. “The scientific evidence is clear,” asserts DEP representative Edward Timbers. “Reducing emissions will improve the health of New Yorkers without altering the amazing taste of NYC pizza.”

But not everyone is buying into the city’s rationale. Critics argue that the burden falls disproportionately on small businesses already reeling from the economic fallout of recent years. “This is an egregious overstep of the government,” lashes out Marc Hellman. “If they want to improve air quality, they should foot the bill, not burden struggling businesses.”

And it’s not just about pizza. Traditional baking methods, deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions, are also under threat. Alter Eckstein, manager of the Satmar Broadway Matzah Bakery, emphasizes the historical significance of their baking methods. “This is our tradition, our heritage. We can’t just change it overnight,” he insists.

For iconic establishments like Grimaldi’s Pizza and John’s of Bleecker Street, compliance comes at a hefty cost, both financially and structurally. But they have little choice if they want to stay in business. Even Paulie Gee’s Pizza in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood favorite, had to adapt to survive.

The debate rages on as New York City marches forward with its ambitious environmental agenda. While the goal of cleaner air is noble, the collateral damage on beloved institutions and cultural practices cannot be overlooked. As the city embraces change, it must also grapple with the consequences of its actions on the fabric of New York’s culinary landscape.