The coronavirus pandemic may have accomplished what years of complaining, eye-rolling and window slamming could not in suburban New York: silencing leaf blowers, their loud motors further rattling nerves and perhaps (Who knows, maybe? But almost certainly not?) spreading the virus.
Cities, towns and villages in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the country have created bans or sought voluntary cuts in the use of leaf blowers in suburban neighborhoods. Town leaders noted that with everyone sheltering in home, the constant din was an added nuisance.
“These things could be going on almost constantly throughout the day,” said Bob Weitzner, the mayor of the Village of Port Washington North, on Long Island, who asked that landscapers refrain from blowing, as many families are home-schooling children. He himself owns an electric blower.
“In no way am I touching a leaf blower until this, pardon the pun, blows over,” he said.
The municipal actions are a departure in the ongoing saga of leaf blowers, one marked, in many towns, by equal parts irritation and inaction. Everyone hates hearing them down the block, but no one complains about the swift and eye-pleasing work they accomplish on their own lawns. And so a silent majority has carried on, under the whine of the motor.
Some residents have apparently questioned whether the machines could be spreading the coronavirus. The village of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. raised the same worry on Twitter this week.
“There is concern that the use of leaf blowers may be contributing to the spread of the virus,” the tweet stated, “although there is no scientific proof of this.”
While revelations about how the virus spreads are still emerging, it is widely believed that it can live as an airborne contagion in only very limited circumstances, such as in the room of a sick person.
At the same time, leaf blowers have been blamed for spreading any number of unpleasant particles — mold, fertilizer and rodent dung, for example.
“Blowing all this stuff in the air,” said Ken Wray, the mayor of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., though he used a cruder word than stuff. “It’s just completely not necessary to do that. Sometime around 20 years ago, guys stopped blow-drying their hair and started blow-drying their lawns.”
Because the coronavirus is a respiratory disease, Mayor Weitzner said, the decision early this year to ban, during the summer months, machines some see as creating air pollutants was roundly welcomed.
“I’ve not gotten one complaint,” he said.
In Westfield, N.J., Mayor Shelley Brindle, in a statement, asked homeowners and landscapers to keep the blowers locked away until at least noon ever day.
“I completely empathize with all those affected by the noise, as I have three kids learning remotely and I am working from home,” Ms. Brindle said. “I know we are all doing our best in these trying times, and that includes employees of the landscaping companies earning a living with permissible work.”
In Croton-on-Hudson, Michael Anzalone, the owner Greenleaf Landscaping, said he welcomed the ban.
“You can rake or prune,” he said, but acknowledged both would pass higher costs to his customers. “When you’re doing a cleanup on a large property and you’re charging by the manpower and you’re telling the client that we’re raking your lawn, it’s a huge cost increase,” he said.