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Leaf Blower Fight Roils Greenwich, Conn., Home to World’s Most Perfect Lawns

My favorite quote from the article is, “PLEASE do something about these hideous machines and their almost constant use. The noise on our street is unbearable,” one survey participant wrote. “I suffer. Our dog suffers.”


Honestly, having fought during the TET Offensive, gas-powered leaf blowers put me right back into a firefight in Nam. I'm overcome with PTSD. Ok, I just made that up, but I need peace and quiet right now. I'm under a lot of pressure.


BTW, as I understand these bad boys are now temporarily banned along Chicago's North Shore from Evanston to Highland Park.


Leaf Blower Fight Roils Greenwich, Conn., Home to World’s Most Perfect Lawns

In an uprising, a coalition of residents say the noise is unbearable. ‘PLEASE do something about these hideous machines.’


By Joseph De Avila, WSJ

Updated Nov. 23, 2023 6:04 am ET


Will Greenwich, Conn., home to some of America’s most perfect lawns, finally blow off noisy leaf blowers?


Some who live there are pleading for peace.


Leaf us be

“The roar, roar, roar is inescapable!” longtime resident Monica Prihoda said at a recent town meeting, imitating a motor with her voice. “Even the storm windows do not protect me.”


“Please,” she implored local officials. “I beg you.”

More than 100 cities nationwide, including some near Greenwich, restrict loud leaf blowers. But the tony New York City suburb that is home to billionaires and hedge funds, has long refused to turn over a new leaf. Town leaders decades ago exempted gas-powered blowers from Greenwich’s noise ordinance.

Now, a coalition of residents called “Quiet Yards Greenwich” is being anything but quiet. Raking through reams of documents and citing a case from the 17th century (about a neighbor’s pig sty), they are pushing for a seasonal limit on gas-powered leaf blowers—and urging the use of electric ones instead.


In fierce opposition are some landscapers, who’ve already invested in gas-powered equipment.


“I totally respect your desire to go green—organic lawn care, electric cars, healthy organic food…but it’s your choice,” Roberto Fernandez, a Greenwich resident and owner of a local landscaping company, said at the town meeting. “Don’t force homeowners and professional landscapers and tree companies to go and think like you.”

After testing electric blowers, Fernandez concluded they weren’t strong enough. They weighed more than traditional blowers and required charging too frequently, he added.

Karen DeWahl records the sound of a leaf blower from inside a car.


The leaf-blower debate has split Greenwich’s landscaping industry.

Jeff Cordulack, who owns a local landscaping company, said he saves money on gasoline by using electric blowers. His employees wield two hand-held ones at the same time, and they work fine, he says.


“They blow very strong ,” said Cordulack, who supports putting limits on gas-powered blowers. “We throw leaves around.”


Quiet Yards Greenwich is asking the town to ban gas-powered leaf blowers on residential properties from May 1 to Sept. 30. Landscapers use them during spring and summer months to clean grass clippings from sidewalks, patios and long driveways found on these large properties. Locals said some residents even use them to dry their cars. Current rules allow them to be used year-round during certain hours.


Greenwich’s Representative Town Meeting, the town’s 230-member legislative body, is expected to vote on the proposal in December. The top elected official, First Selectman Fred Camillo, backs the effort.


Svetlana Wasserman and Karen DeWahl, members of Quiet Yards Greenwich.


The uprising against blaring blowers is years in the making. The wealthy community’s anti-leaf blower movement started in the 1990s with the formation of a group called Project Quiet Yards. They lobbied Greenwich officials to limit the use of the noisy lawn tools. Those efforts failed. Instead, the town gave gas-powered leaf blowers an exemption to the local noise ordinance, establishing the hours the tools could be used.


A decade later, a new coalition dubbed Citizens Against Leaf Blower Mania unsuccessfully took up the cause.


When the pandemic forced residents to stay home, many faced a roaring symphony of leaf-blowers during work and school. A new group of fed-up locals organized Quiet Yards Greenwich in 2021.


Co-founder Elizabeth Dempsey said the insulated walls and windows of her home on a 3.79-acre lot are no match for the gas-powered leaf blowers in her neighborhood during busy blowing months.


“I can hear it in my house all day,” said Dempsey, a 61-year-old former banker.


Svetlana Wasserman, a 53-year-old former management consultant, moved from a nearby town in Westchester County, N.Y., for a home with a bigger yard in 2019. “One of the first things that jumped out at me when I moved here, despite living in the back country and 5-acre estates, is how friggin’ noisy it is,” she said.


Even among spacious lots with few neighbors, Wasserman said she can’t escape the leaf blowers. She puts on earbuds and plays music when she needs a reprieve, she said.

“Sometimes I play Radiohead,” said Wasserman, also of Quiet Yards Greenwich. “Usually it’s some pretty angry music.”


Sophie Koven, another member, said one pivotal moment for her occurred last year during her son’s eighth-grade graduation, further solidifying her opposition to the tools. Midway through the outdoor ceremony, the blare of a gas-powered leaf blower coming from the adjacent property began drowning out the student speaker, who could barely be heard above the buzz.


“One person operating one leaf blower can just ruin an event for 800 people, and no one can do anything about it,” said Koven, 49, who works as a mediator.

Sophie Koven's son's eighth-grade graduation


As part of their campaign, Quiet Yards Greenwich provided town officials with a 71-page white paper documenting the impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers and concerns about fumes and noise. The paper included a survey of 680 residents, with nearly 90% saying they wanted to curtail gas-blower use in their neighborhood.


“PLEASE do something about these hideous machines and their almost constant use. The noise on our street is unbearable,” one survey participant wrote. “I suffer. Our dog suffers.”


Some respondents weren’t pleased with the possibility of new lawn-tool limits.

“Stop trying to regulate and interfere in everyones life!” one person commented in the survey.


Making her case for leaf-blower restrictions during a recent town meeting, Koven cited a dispute in 17th century England, known as Aldred’s case. That landmark case involved a man who built a pigsty next to the home of his neighbor, William Aldred.

Aldred filed and won a nuisance complaint in court, establishing a right for people to enjoy their property that was adopted by the settlers who came to the U.S., said Koven, a trained lawyer.


Karen DeWahl, a Quiet Yards Greenwich member who will often wear noise-canceling headphones while having lunch with her husband to escape the noise of blowers, said she hopes the group’s proposal to cut down on the noise will be successful.

“It’s a beautiful town, it really is,” DeWahl said. “So we want to enjoy it.”

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com


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