To ban or not to ban.
Discussions over leaf blower noise and the effects of the use of gas-powered yard and garden blowers have been going on in Greenburgh for decades.
Finally, in a special session Tuesday, May 16, the town took its first significant action on the issue, unanimously approving an amendment to local law that aims to curb the noise caused by leaf blowers. The amendment prohibits the simultaneous operation of more than one leaf blower on property of 10,000 square feet or less, and bans the simultaneous operation of four or more leaf blowers on any size parcel. The goal is to lessen the noise factor when leaf blowers are in use.
The town posted an announcement May 16 to alert residents that “operation of a gasoline-powered power lawn mower, leaf blower or other gasoline-powered lawn or garden equipment or construction tool in a residential zone may not exceed 75 dBA [decibel volume] at any time. Operation of gasoline-powered leaf and garden blowers in excess of 55 dBA is prohibited from May 1 through October 1 of each year.”
Sounds between 31-60 decibels are considered quiet; 50 dB is as loud as a quiet conversation, a quiet office or a quiet refrigerator, and over time, continued exposure to noise above 70 dBA can cause hearing loss.
Greenburgh’s reexamination of its local codes governing noise came in response to residents’ complaints that landscapers were simultaneously using more than one leaf blower on properties in residential neighborhoods, and the noise created by that usage made it difficult for people to work at home or relax.
The town has held multiple public hearings at which residents and landscape business owners addressed the pros and cons of banning, restricting or continuing to allow the use of blowers.
“We hope the new law will enable residents to enjoy a better quality of life,” noted Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. He said the town is planning to launch an education campaign to inform residents and others about the amended law, and will work with the police department on enforcement measures.
Feiner also confirmed to the Inquirer that the town is still considering another action, which is “much more controversial”: a summer ban for two months on all leaf blowers. A public hearing on that proposal was held May 10 and another is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Greenburgh Town Hall. The second action would have a “sunset clause” as it would be in place for only one year, Feiner said.
For years, Greenburgh has taken steps toward modifying the use of leaf-blowers, but the process has been controversial, as was the town’s decision to stop using the vacuum trucks about 10 years ago. “It was controversial but one of the best decisions,” said Feiner. “We never picked up leaves in a timely manner — leaves clogged up drains, created more flooding issues. Now we can use staff to clean up right of way. We have reduced overtime. Streets are less slippery because leaves are not on the road [and] town looks cleaner.”
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