Mendez says proposed public-smoking ban a real drag

By Lesley Sussman

Just when you thought it was at least still O.K. to enjoy a leisurely smoke in a park, on the beach or in some other public space, now the city wants to make it illegal for cigarette and cigar puffers to do so. And the new prohibition has City Councilmember Rosie Mendez smoking mad.

An aide to Mendez appeared before Community Board 3 on Tues., Oct. 26, to urge the full board to join the councilmember in opposing the proposed ban on smoking in New York City parks, beaches and other city-operated recreational facilities. The measure is currently under discussion by the City Council.

The new legislation, named Intro 332, was introduced on Sept. 15 by Mayor Bloomberg and various members of the City Council. It would affect more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities, as well as the city’s seven beaches, which span 14 miles of shoreline.

The proposal follows on the heels of a smoking ban implemented by the city six years ago that drove tobacco smokers out of bars and restaurants to enjoy their favorite addiction on the sidewalk.

In a compromise measure, one New York City lawmaker has suggested there be designated outdoor smoking sections in the city’s parks and beaches. Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said that under his plan about 20 percent of each park would be a designated smoking area.

At the C.B. 3 meeting, Mendez aide Michele Burger told the board “Rosie believes that this new proposal infringes on civil liberties. Besides, how can it be enforced?”

Acting C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li said the board would take up the matter at a later date before making a decision on whether to support Mendez’s position.