Butts Out: Mayor Bloomberg Signs Outdoor Smoking Ban Into Law
By Olivia Scheck on February 22, 2011 8:52am |
By Olivia Scheck and Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — No ifs, ands or butts — Manhattan smokers will soon be barred from lighting up in the city's public outdoor spaces.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the city's controversial extension of the current smoking ban to include 1,700 parks, 14 miles of beaches and public plazas like Times Square Tuesday afternoon. The law is set to go into effect in the spring and violators will be subject to $50 fines.
"Creating smoke-free parks and beaches makes sense for many reasons," Bloomberg said during the bill signing ceremony at City Hall, arguing that the ban will not only save residents from the harm of second-hand smoke, but also keep city parks and beaches clean of cigarette butt litter.
"If we can protect our children from the dangers of smoking, we can raise an entire generation of New Yorkers who are free from the dangers of nicotine addiction," he said.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley described the new law as "a groundbreaking and courageous step."
"Soon, parents will be able to take their children to the park without having to give them a lesson in how to smoke," he said.
The mayor, who strongly endorsed the bill, had sent confusing signals in recent weeks when he said that authorities would not actually enforce the ban.
"The police will not be enforcing this. That's not going to be their job," Bloomberg said on his WOR-AM radio show Feb. 11, according to the Daily News. "This is going to be enforced by public pressure."
In fact, the onus for enforcing the legislation lies in the hands of the city's parks department and transportation department workers, according to the bill.
But for many city smokers, the measure goes too far.
"It's a little too extreme," said Sheldon Rand, 73, of the Upper West Side, who prefers Monte Cristo cigars to cigarettes. "I'm in favor of bars and buildings, not the parks and beaches."
Upper Manhattan City Councilman Robert Jackson, one of two Manhattan council members who voted against the ban, agreed with Rand's assessment, according to a spokeswoman.
"He understands the health aspects and he also understands the civil liberties issue," the spokeswoman Sarah Morgridge told DNAinfo after the bill passed the city council. "In the end he just thought it was just a little too paternalistic a step for the city to be taking."
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who also voted against the ban, said she felt the bill would infringe on the civil liberties of those who choose to smoke.
She also told Midtown's Community Board 5 earlier this month that she feared enforcement would selectively target minorities and youth.
In addition to the smoking ban, the mayor also signed bills that will require the NYPD to publish bicycle and car crash data online, including deaths, injuries and moving violations.