By Steve Mosco
Heavy-grade heating oil is hazardous to the city’s health and more than 120 apartment buildings in Queens are using it — but not for much longer.
At a Community Board 6 meeting in Kew Gardens, Bethany Bowyer, policy adviser at the city Department of Environmental Protection, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has begun to phase out the sludgy, polluting fuel oil.
Bowyer presented three vials containing three different grades of heating oil to the board: Nos. 6, 4 and 2. Noticeably thicker than the other grades, No. 6 oil causes dense black smoke to rise from stacks atop apartment buildings across the city. The two lower grade oils will reduce emissions by up to 50 percent, according to the DEP.
“The city Health Department conducted an air study and it found that breathing in heavy heating oil can result in over 3,000 deaths, 2,000 hospitalizations and 6,000 emergency room visits annually,” Bowyer told the group at the Kew Gardens Community Center April 11.
She said the city will begin phasing out the No. 6 heating oil this July, with a complete phase-out slated for 2015.
Of a more immediate concern, Capt. Ralph Forgione, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, gave a brief report on the precinct’s criminal activity, saying that grand larceny is the one crime running rampant in the area.
According to Forgione, there were 31 grand larcenies in the last 30-day period, which is on a par with last year’s numbers. Forgione said many of those crimes involved unattended property and items left inside a parked car.
“Help me help you,” said Forgione, encouraging community members to reach out to the precinct. “Nothing is too small. We want to make sure all of your concerns are being addressed.”
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) addressed community concerns about food cart vendors illegally disposing of waste. The councilwoman recently introduced a bill aimed at keeping food trucks from dumping grease into the city’s sewer system.
Under the bill, food carts or restaurants that dump waste or oil from grease traps will be fined after their first offense and have their licenses revoked after the second offense.
“New York City has thousands of vendors throughout the five boroughs and it is important that waste is being discarded properly,” said Koslowitz, adding that grease can cause overflows in catch basins. “On several occasions, I have seen food handlers take grease and cooking oil at the end of the day and dump it into the catch basins. Not only is this unsanitary, but it’s also damaging to the city’s sewer system.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.