We're now four weeks into summer, meaning homes and businesses across the land are sinking thousands of dollars into keeping their spaces comfortably sub-arctic. Every year at this time, we direct our ire toward the most facile of causes: The dirtbag retailers and restaurants who insist on air-conditioning the sidewalk, where the unnaturally cool air promptly evaporates before touching a single sweat gland.
It never makes any difference, though, since apparently Aldo doesn't read Gothamist. FINE! But now the Department of Consumer Affairs has taken it upon itself to launch an outreach effort encouraging businesses to "Shut the Front Door!,” blanketing the streets with 200 volunteers at 45 business corridors to stress the "environmental and financial impacts" of leaving the doors open. There is also a hashtag: #BeCoolSaveFuel. Problem SOLVED.
“Throughout New York City, many businesses open their doors during the hot summer months to lure customers inside with cool air,” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin said in a statement. “This practice should never be seen as a cost of doing business—but a harmful cost to our city’s environment and a waste of money for the business."
In 2008, the City Council passed Local Law 38, mandating that spacious chain stores keep their doors closed while running the A/C. Stores caught on a first offense are let off with a warning. A further violation warrants a fine of $200; that fine is doubled to $400 if a third violation is incurred in an 18-day period.
Commercial buildings are responsible for 10 million metric tons—20 percent—of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Con Ed says that if one business closes its doors during the summer, it can prevent the release of more than 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide. Bill de Blasio has committed to reducing the city's emissions by 80 percent by 2050, so he's got his work cut out for him.
And yet, when we conducted an investigation in 2012, we discovered ("discovered") that many businesses are happy to flout the law, since the allure of free flowing A/C tends to lure customers like sweaty moths to a refreshing flame. The occasional fine, if it's ever even issued, is probably viewed as the cost of doing business.
Slate has been arguing for years that opposing air conditioning is the same as asking a family in North Dakota to endure a frigid winter without heat, arguing that "America is overcooled, but then again it’s also overheated," as though these two things are mutually exclusive. Look around your climate controlled office: How many people are wearing a sweater?
Anyway, fuck it, keep that door open!