By Ben Fractenberg
MIDTOWN — Smokers seeking respite in Manhattan's green spaces Thursday railed against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban smoking in city parks, beaches and pedestrian malls.
The proposal, which is expected to pass the City Council, is an extension of the city's existing smoking ban in bars and restaurants. But some New Yorkers thought the city should butt out of their smoke breaks.
"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."
Smoker Alain Demerns agreed that the outdoor ban was taking things too far — but admitted he was in favor of the bar ban.
"They are going way too far," said Demerns, 46, who was visiting the city from Montreal, Canada, and taking a breather in Times Square. "Second hand smoking is nothing outside."
But the latest step in the war on smoking was good news in the eyes of many local non-smokers, and former smokers.
"We all have to modify our behavior in a public gathering place," said John Jones, 55, of Brooklyn, who was taking a break in Bryant Park.
"You still get second-hand smoke," he said, referring to smokers who congregate outdoors in public spaces.
Jim Fastiggi, 52, of New Jersey, once savored his smoke breaks, but now he favors banning tobacco indoors and out.
"As a former smoker, I have to say ‘yes’ [to supporting the ban]," Fastiggi said. "As a city as densely populated as New York City it’s reasonable to take measures."
Bloomberg continues to frame the issue in terms of public health.
"The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke – whether you’re indoors or out -- hurts your health," the mayor said in a press release.
The measure needs to pass the City Council to pass and already has the support of its speaker, Christine Quinn.
"When this legislation is passed, all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a walk in the park or a day at the beach without having to inhale secondhand smoke," Quinn said in a statement.
Brooklyn resident Jenna Ciralli, 28, took a more diplomatic position, saying the city could block off a smoking section in parks.
"It’s always gonna be there," she said, "so we might as well have a spot for it."