In a few weeks, landscapers will venture forth to begin their season. To many, they represent harbingers of spring and nature’s renewal.
For others, their emergence means putting up with the noise (and worse) of power equipment—with backpack blowers being the chief culprit.
Last year, the Town of North Hempstead, responding to residents’ complaints, proposed a modification of the section of its code titled “Noise.” It was slated to be voted on at the Sept. 26 town board meeting. However, councilmembers postponed a decision after dozens of landscapers showed up to protest some of the proposed restrictions.
As outlined by Supervisor Judi Bosworth, the law would ban gas-powered leaf blowers between June 30 and Sept. 30 for landscapers. Use would be restricted to the heavy spring and fall clean-up periods. It would take effect in June of 2019 to give time for battery-powered equipment to continue to improve.
To reach a balance between conflicting interests, the town pledged to establish a landscaper advisory board to work on improving the law and its enforcement.
At both the Jan. 9 and Jan. 30 town board meetings, Al Franklin of New Hyde Park quizzed the town leaders on the status of the legislation.
“I have almost no words left to say on this issue,” Franklin commented. “The hazards, the poisons from the exhausts. The quality of life. You all know. A landscaper comes on to the property, fires up the blowers—it’s the first item off the truck. Then cuts the grass, and then blows again. My house is filling up with fumes. I don’t have central air. My windows are open all summer….I have no choice. I have no option. I have to stay in New Hyde Park and put up with this. [Landscapers] have options. Electric blowers are available.”
Bosworth responded, “Mr. Franklin, we have been gathering lots of information and different studies. We’re in the process of finalizing a committee that will be meeting soon.”
She called on Jill Weber, commissioner of parks, who said, “We put together a list of potential people to represent the town and business community. We met to discuss the potential candidates a few weeks ago…it should happen soon.”
Weber talked about her department’s pilot program using electric-powered leaf blowers. They work well when you didn’t need a lot of power, she observed. When the leaves were wet and heavy, they weren’t powerful enough. The town will continue experimenting to see how long the battery charge will last.
“We’re buying some additional equipment to continue piloting,” Weber said.
Franklin believed that using electric blowers would contribute to improving the quality of life, speculating that landscapers would not be able to use them excessively, compared to gas-powered models.
“We’ll be taking all that into consideration, and hopefully we’ll have some news about how we’re going forward very quickly,” Weber noted.
Bosworth said, “We want to…come up with something that…will be palatable to the landscapers as well as helping our residents to make sure it’s not negatively impacting their quality of life.”
At the Jan. 30 meeting, in response to resident Juliane Saary-Littman, Weber again emphasized that the town was in the process of testing out new equipment. When asked about the landscaping advisory committee, she called on Elizabeth Botwin, the town attorney.
Botwin said, “We’re still putting together the committee and working on revisions to the proposed law. It will be sent back to the board after we work it through the committee. We have not formed the committee yet. We’re still going through all the different interests that are involved…We want to get something in place before the spring season.”
Franklin mentioned towns that are moving toward banning blowers, including Bedford in Westchester County and East Hampton.
“Let’s not use banning, it’s too severe,” Franklin reflected. “Phasing out sounds a little softer….You as elected officials represent me. We have to put restrictions on these ghastly blowers.”
Bosworth promised to have proposal legislation in place for the spring.
Councilman Angelo Ferrara told Franklin that the board was sympathetic.
“We hear you. We understand there’s a problem. And we’re taking action to correct it,” Ferrara said.
Franklin asserted that he didn’t like coming to the meeting every month.
“I’m not a complainer,” he said.
As of press time, the town had not yet picked members of the advisory committee.