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New York City cracks down on ‘air conditioning the sidewalk’

Now the nation’s biggest city is pushing businesses to cool it on such wastefulness. Under an expanded law that took full effect this week, most stores and restaurants could be fined US$250 or more if they keep their doors or windows open while running the A/C.

But as temperatures soared into the 90s, some air-conditioned shops and eateries around Times Square still had doors propped like open arms, beckoning passers-by to come into the cold.

“When the doors are open, it’s better for business,” says William Shalders, who manages Il Forno, an Italian restaurant that had its front door open; he said he wasn’t aware of the law.

It passed last fall, but first-time violators got only warnings until July 1. No violations or fines have yet been issued since the change.

Some New Yorkers haven’t waited for that to happen. Resident Dee Vitale Henle has taken it upon herself to close doors when she sees shops have them open.

“It still bothers me because we’re in a terrible energy crisis in this world,” she says.

There’s no exact measure of how much power goes out the door with air conditioning at city shops. The Natural Resources Defense Council has pegged the costs at up to US$1,000 per summer for a typical business, which already pays summertime electric bills topping US$2,200 a month. City sustainability officials have said closing doors at 10,000 businesses could cut 3,600 cars’ worth of emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming.

But some business owners say the city shouldn’t dictate what they do with their doors and on their own dime. And “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, for one, has suggested New York’s rule smacks of nagging, casting Democrat Bill de Blasio as “not only our mayor — he’s also our dad.”

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