The City Council passed the bill 36-12 in February. Some applauded the bill’s effort to curb the dangers of secondhand smoke. “Recent studies, and studies over the years, have shown that secondhand smoke can have a harmful impact. Public smoking is not just a risk people take on themselves, it is a risk that impacts everyone around them,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) in February.
Others felt that the bill infringed on smokers’ rights. “While I understand the health concerns that prompted the introduction of this bill, it is nothing more than another example of government intruding into the private lives of New Yorkers,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
Now that the law is in effect, the city is asking residents to enforce the rule themselves. Park enforcement officers have the power to issue $50 fines, but the city said self-enforcement would be the key to keeping secondhand smoke away from public areas. NYPD officers cannot issue tickets for violations.
“The new smoking ban is a quality of life rule that is primarily self-enforcing,” the Parks Department said in a statement. “We’re counting on all New Yorkers to comply just as they do with other quality of life rules. Parks Enforcement Officers, who ensure quality of life issues in our parks and beaches, do have the ability to issue summonses to those who do not comply with parks rules, and when possible will educate and advise before taking further action when overseeing compliance.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the new bans on Monday. “Our parks, beaches and plazas serve as havens where New Yorkers can escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and they are a big part of what makes our city so great,” he said. “Now our public spaces will not only be more enjoyable but also healthier, cleaner and more beautiful.”
But will smokers agree? Both the New York Post and New York Daily News found several smokers at public parks flauntingly disobeying the new law. The New York City blog Gothamist reported that Parks did not issue any summonses on Monday.
On the Parks Department website, the department urges residents to inform Parks Department employees or make complaints dialing 311 if smokers refuse to comply.
by Eric Yun