City rules on coal ovens could hit Brooklyn Matzah bakeries

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Let my people dough.

Proposed city rules that would severely limit the use of coal- and wood-burning ovens for pizza shops could also flatten New York’s traditional matzah bakeries, business owners and community leaders told The Post.

Pizza lovers have been convulsed all week after the new regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection became public.

The new city rules would require all eateries to use coal and wood ovens to achieve a 75% emissions reduction — forcing them to install pricy filtration systems.

“We are not giving up coal and wood,” said one Brooklyn bakery owner who requested anonymity. “I think anything we would have to put in would cost a lot a lot of money and it would impact the taste and quality of the matzah.

“We’ll see what happens. We want to comply but the compliance has to work for our matzah as well,” he said.


Rabbi Jacob Richter takes the Matzoh out from the oven at the Satmar Matzoh bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Rabbi Jacob Richter takes the Matzoh out of the oven at the Satmar Matzoh bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“If I put my name out there, next thing you know the city is going to be down in my basement,” the baker added.

Traditional Matzah bakeries have not always been the best neighbors.

Their facilities — often nestled in residential neighborhoods — have drawn complaints about choking pollution.


A Jewish baker making traditional hand baked matzah.
The Satmar Matzah Bakery in Bushwick has been the subject of multiple inspections by city agencies.

The Satmar Matzah Bakery at 38 Locust St. in Bushwick has drawn particular ire from neighbors and has been the subject of multiple inspections by city agencies.

Mounds of coal have occasionally been spotted laying out on the sidewalk outside the bakery.

Alter Eckstein, 38, a manager of the Satmar Broadway Matzah Bakery, which is not affiliated with Satmar Matzah Bakery, said his shop had spent more than $600,000 on filtering systems in anticipation of the new rules — and to appease neighbors.

Eckstein estimates Brooklyn has about a dozen traditional matzah bakeries — and stressed the importance of preserving the coal and wood preparation.

“This is the religious tradition for all these years. Gas stoves can’t be as hot as coal and wood. It’s also about the religion. This is how we bake for the past thousands of years and we don’t want to change anything,” he said.

While most of the biggest matzah players like Streit’s are no longer in the city, almost a million pounds of traditional matzah (known as Shmurah matzah) is still hand-baked in small shops.


Locals have sometimes complained about pollution caused by traditional matzah bakeries.
Locals have sometimes complained about pollution caused by traditional matzah bakeries.
Locust Street Residents

The overwhelming majority of it can be found spread across Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Jewish leaders urged city officials to let their people go.

“I love matzah. I am Jewish. Of course, we have to support all businesses that produce matzah. Why are we going after them? It’s completely opposite to what we should be doing,” said Brooklyn GOP Councilman Ari Kagan. “I am totally against it. It is wrong.”

A rabbi warned that the bakeries could flee New York for hospitable places. In March 2021 a Shmurah matzah bakery opened in Fort Worth, Texas — the first such establishment in North America outside New York or Montreal.

“Don’t leave out the jerk chicken and the BBQ. Someone from every culture is going to be mad about this,” warned Staten Island GOP Councilman Joe Borelli.

Traditional matzah is made with just flour and water and is produced from start to finish in just 18 minutes.


The new city rules would require all eateries to use coal and wood ovens to achieve a 75% emissions reduction.
The new city rules would require all eateries to use coal and wood ovens to achieve a 75% emissions reduction.
Locust Street Residents

A quick turnaround is required to ensure the product is finished before the dough begins to rise — which would make it unsuitable for Passover.

Mayor Adams has vowed to chart a path of compromise.

“We don’t want to hurt businesses in the city and we don’t want to hurt the environment. So, let’s see if we can find a way to get the resolutions we’re looking for,” he said this week.

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