A couple enjoy more than a smoke in Union Square Park last May. After being criticized last year as being an "absolute joke", the Parks Department has quietly stepped up enforcement of the City's ban on smoking in parks, beaches and other public spaces. So far they have issued more tickets this year than in all of 2011.
84 tickets were issued between the law's May launch in 2011 and the end of year, while 108 summonses have been issued so far in 2012.
Internal Parks Department documents obtained by NYC Park Advocates last May revealed that smokers in parks could be fined up to $ 300 dollars, a figure six times greater than previously made public.
"These documents should be kept internally with Parks, " the memo states, "Please do not circulate to non-parks personnel."
Not Everyone Complies With The Law So Easily. In 2011 a Park Enforcement Patrol officer was assaulted on the main lawn in Union Square Park by a 6'4''- 260 pound park patron after the man was repeatedly asked to put out a cigarette. The man refused to produce ID and became belligerent and began cursing.
"I'm not giving you s**t," he reportedly said according to a source at the scene.
The burly man attempted to walk away, he brushed past the peace officer and failed to stop. A struggle ensued as the man tried to avoid arrest. He began to swing wildly and both men wound up down on the grass struggling. The man was eventually maced and was finally subdued. NYPD arrived and helped cuff him. While being searched the perpetrator was found to have a small plastic bag in his wallet which contained a "white powdery substance," of illegal drugs.
(Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
New York City has quietly stepped up enforcement of the ban on smoking in parks, beaches and other public spaces, issuing more tickets so far this year than in all of 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Originally billed as a self-enforcing law, the ban has resulted in 108 summonses in 2012, up from 84 between its May launch and the end of last year, according to the city Department of Parks and Recreation. In the ban's first month, only one of the $50 summonses was issued—to a newspaper photographer who goaded agents to write a ticket.
The heightened enforcement comes as Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced legislation Wednesday in the City Council that would require residential buildings in New York City to adopt a smoking policy and disclose it to prospective tenants and owners. The legislation doesn't dictate whether buildings should allow or disallow smoking.
The proposal was the latest effort in Mr. Bloomberg's global fight against tobacco and drew a round of questions on Wednesday. He defended the plan at a news conference, saying he wasn't planning to ban smoking in private dwellings.
"We're not trying to ban anything," he said. "I've always believed, as you know, that if you want to smoke I think you should have a right to do so. But it kills you."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she hasn't yet reviewed the mayor's new proposal.
Mr. Bloomberg said he hoped more buildings would ban cigarettes on their own.
The city banned smoking in restaurants and bars in 2003. The mayor in 2011 signed into law an extension of that ban to include the city's 1,700 parks, 14 miles of beaches, marinas and pedestrian plazas, including Times Square.
The mayor has said he believes the ban on smoking in parks and beaches should be largely self-policed by New Yorkers. But park advocates and others have complained that the ban didn't have teeth, pointing to the relatively low number of summonses.
Asked whether the city was intentionally stepping up enforcement, parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement that most New Yorkers follow the law.
"Summonses are issued as a last resort," he said. "We feel that, in general, the rules are making for a more healthful and pleasant park experience."
He said he has personally asked park-goers to put out cigarettes.
"On all those occasions, the smokers turned out to be visitors to New York City, unfamiliar with the rule, and they were immediately compliant and apologetic," he said.
Council Member Gale Brewer, a Manhattan Democrat who was the chief sponsor of extended ban, said: "I'm not interested in revenue. I'm not interested in people getting summonses."
But she said, "If you warn people and tell them, and they don't listen to the warning, I think they should get a summons."
Geoffrey Croft, a parks advocate, said the increased number of tickets is a "step in the right direction." "They passed a very sensible law," he said. "But obviously a lot of people are still flouting it."
Despite the ban, there are still many smokers in New York's public spaces.
Didier Offe, 56 years old, a tourist from France, was puffing on a cigarette at a Times Square table Wednesday. He wasn't aware of the law. "I think it's a good policy," he said.
Windsor Terrace resident Juliet Cooper said she often sees people lighting up in Prospect Park—and she said she tells them not to. "The park is a place that you come for clean air," she said.
—Alison Fox contributed to this article.
Smoking Fines Go Up in Parks
The Wall Street Journal - April 19, 2012 - By Michael Howard Saul
Metro NY - April 19, 2012 - Alison Bowen
NY1 News - April 19, 2012
gothamist - April 19, 2012 - By Garth Johnston
Tickets up in 2012 for smoking in NYC parks
The Associated Press - April 19, 2012
A Walk In The Park - April 11, 2012
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A Walk In The Park - June 21, 2011
A Walk In The Park - MAY 29, 2011
A Walk In The Park - May 28, 2011
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A Walk In The Park - February 2, 2011