2011-02-11 / Top Stories

Rockaway Councilman Against The Ban

Ulrich, Sanders Say Yes To Smoking
By Nicholas Briano

Rockaway City Councilmembers Eric A. Ulrich and James Sanders Jr. were two of the 12 members in the Council to vote last week against the bill expanding the city’s smoking ban to include all properties within the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

The bill which was approved by a 36- to-12 margin in the Council and it becomes law 90 days after Mayor Bloomberg signs.

Bloomberg has already announced that he will sign the bill as soon as it crosses his desk. He and the city’s Department of Health have been pushing for the bill for two years.

The law will fine people $50 for smoking in public parks, beaches, pools, boardwalks, playgrounds and recreation centers, as well as the newly formed pedestrian plazas like the ones in Union Square and Times Square in Manhattan.

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. The city should be less concerned about correcting people’s bad habits and more focused on solving real problems facing the city,” Ulrich argues.

“Whether we like it or not, smokers pay taxes and they have rights too. We need to be mindful of the fact that we’re infringing on the rights and freedoms of everyday residents who are not breaking the law.”

According to Ulrich, he and Councilmember Rosie Mendez of Manhattan had proposed an alternate bill that would have set aside designated non-smoking areas on properties included in the bill.

James Sanders Jr. voted against the bill as well, but couldn’t be reached directly for comment. A spokesperson for his office said Sanders was also in favor of smoking and non-smoking sections of beach and parks.

Both council members from Staten Island, Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo, whose districts also include public beach areas, voted against the ban. But Councilmembers Domenic Recchia from Coney Island and Michael Nelson of Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn voted in favor of the bill, as well as Bronx Councilmember James Vacca whose district includes Orchard Beach.

The ban will cover 1,400 parks and 14 miles of beaches citywide. The law will not be enforced by the NYPD but rather by Parks Enforcement Patrol officers.

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