New York Is Embracing Outdoor Heat Lamps Right As France Is Rejecting Them – Streetsblog New York City
When outdoor dining comes to New York City, gas problems aren’t limited to people who overeat Brussels sprouts.
A city council bill that would allow restaurants to dine on the roadside all year round would also allow restaurant owners to use propane heating lamps to keep their customers warm. But the city is starting to embrace the idea of heating outdoor seating, just as France, a country known for its year-round warmed restaurant scene, is phasing out heated terraces because they harm the environment.
A bill sponsored by Councilor Antonio Reynoso allows restaurants to use propane heat lamps to warm their customers outdoors. This is an update of the current city rules that only allow the use of natural gas heating devices for outdoor use (which require extensive formalities and installation work to connect to gas pipes). It’s an obvious solution to the problem of New York City being cold in winter, even in times of climate change.
Outdoor restaurant heating, once considered a national pride in France, is on its way across the country after several cities decided that heated terraces in restaurants were too wasteful. A French engineer found that running multiple heaters for just five months uses nine times more electricity than the average household. And another study said the average gas heater emits 3,300 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year. For comparison: According to the EPA, the average car emits 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year.
For his part, Reynoso said he tried to help the restaurant industry in an emergency and saw the propane heaters as a temporary fix to a hopefully temporary crisis.
“Continuing the outdoor dining program is a simple and effective way to continue serving the industry during this difficult time, and the most efficient way to continue the program into the colder months is by using heat lamps,” said Reynoso. “However, I recognize the environmental impact of these devices and would like to emphasize that their use is only an emergency solution.”
Environmental groups also seem to recognize that outdoor heating will be a necessary evil when it comes to continuing to dine al fresco, and urged restaurants to choose less wasteful electric heaters (which emit, on average, about 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year ).
“Redesigning our streetscape to prioritize guests, bikers and pedestrians will improve our public health, air quality and economy,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Heat lamps would help make this alternative use of the street space easier in the cold months. While we are not against the proposal to legalize propane heating lamps for outdoor dining, we are concerned about the climate impact this fossil fuel would cause and strongly encourage restaurants to use electric heating lamps when feasible. “
Although France bans the heated terrace, other cold-weather cities are throwing gas heaters into the mix for alfresco dining. In Edmonton, Canada, for example, restaurateurs keep diners warm outdoors with non-metallic furniture, blankets, and, yes, gas or electric heaters.