CHELSEA — Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants New Yorkers to breathe easy.
The city has the cleanest air of any major American metropolis, and the air here is also cleaner now than it was in the city nearly 50 years ago, according to a study released by the mayor's office Thursday.
"Today our air is the cleanest it's been in almost 50 years," Bloomberg said during a Thursday afternoon press conference at Chelsea Piers. "And that cleaner air is saving nearly 800 lives a year in our city."
Sulfur dioxide levels in the air have dropped by 69 percent since 2008 and soot pollution has dropped by 23 percent since 2007, according to the report.
The mayor credits the drop primarily to his administration's Clean Heat program, which got 2,700 buildings out of 10,000 burning dirty heating oils to convert to cleaner fuels since 2011.
An additional 2,500 buildings are currently converting to cleaner burning fuel, Bloomberg added.
Besides saving hundreds of lives yearly by preventing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, the cleaner air has also led to 2,000 fewer emergency room visits per year for ailments like asthma, compared to 2008, according to the mayor. Asthma hospitalizations were a particular problem in low-income communities like Hunts Point in The Bronx, he said.
In addition to cleaner heating fuel, Bloomberg credited city initiatives like pushing for more hybrid buses and cabs as helping to clean the air.
"I'm gonna live here, I'm gonna breathe the air," Bloomberg said, "and so are you."