A Call to Quiet Leaf Blowers

Village may say plug it in or turn it off
Durell Godfrey

       East Hampton Village, which already restricts when gas-powered leaf blowers and hedge trimmers can be used, is contemplating further restrictions.

       The village board questioned on Friday whether commercial use of the noisy machines could be further curtailed.

       Under existing law, commercial use of gas or diesel-powered lawn care equipment between May 1 and Nov. 30 is limited to Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

       Barbara Borsack, a village board member, and Becky Molinaro, the village administrator, met recently with residents to discuss the matter and recounted that meeting on Friday.

       “It’s become a part of the whole industry at this point,” said Richard Lawler, another board member, who is not in favor of a ban. “It would be extremely difficult for landscapers do to without entirely.”

       Elbert Edwards recommended curtailing use to “the shortest period of time necessary,” adding, “I don’t think they need them in the summer.”

       Bruce Siska, another board member, was also in favor of narrowing the timeframe during which leaf blowers can be used. Dining on his patio on summer evenings, he said, a conversation across the table is impossible. “I don’t think that’s right.”

       Kathy Cunningham, the executive director of the Village Preservation Society of East Hampton and an attendee of the meeting with Ms. Borsack and Ms. Molinaro, said that banning gas-powered leaf blowers, but not electric models, would address the concerns Mr. Lawler expressed on behalf of landscapers. But landscapers, Mr. Lawler said, will argue that electric leaf blowers are not as powerful as gas-powered models, and that lengthy electric cords, particularly on large properties, would be cumbersome and impractical.

       “They’re not always blowing leaves,” Ms. Cunningham said of landscapers. “They’re chasing a handful of grass clippings around. . . . Our community values the peaceful enjoyment of your property.”

       Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said that shortening the timeframe for commercial use of leaf blowers and hedge trimmers to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, was “a valid first step.” The board will hold a hearing on the change at a future meeting.

       The board also decided to hold a hearing next month to consider expanding the period in which the two-hour restriction on parking in the Reutershan and Schenck parking lots is in effect. The two-hour limit is presently in effect between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1 through Nov. 30, but in the past that had extended further into the off-season.

       Demand for parking is only increasing, the mayor said, and several store owners in the village have requested that the restriction be in effect beyond the present span.

       “Some think it should be year round,” Mr. Lawler said, “but I think it should go back to the way it was, April 1 to Dec. 31.”

       Mr. Edwards said he favored a year-round two-hour restriction. The mayor said he would support that. Mr. Lawler then agreed that the restriction should be in effect year round.

       Ms. Borsack agreed that the long-term parking lot off Lumber Lane had plenty of space for people who needed to park for the full work day, but expressed concern for women that must walk to the lot after dark. “My main concern — I hear that from women all the time — [is that] it is a little frightening for women to walk back there after dark,” she said.

       Captain Michael Tracey of the Village Police Department told the board that foot patrols in the area had been increased at the board’s direction.

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