The smoking ban in NYC parks and beaches is doing great, according to the city Health Department, but a similar ban in state parks has been delayed. It seems that Albany underestimated Gothamist's favorite smoking activist and home tobacco grower, Audrey Silk. Thanks to the work of her group, the State is backing down on its plan, which was announced in April, to ban smoking. Sort of! The ban will probably still happen, it just won't happen for a few more months.
A press release from Silk's smoking group C.L.A.S.H. claims that she won big in this fight. Here's how she understands the news: "New Yorkers and other visitors to state park facilities can volunteer to not-smoke but cannot be stopped from smoking and cannot be fined or hassled by any law enforcement officer."
But a rep from the Parks Department tells us, "The restrictions remain in effect. We're deferring issuing tickets for a couple of months during which we are extending public comment period. First we need to submit a regulatory impact statement. We did this through a consensus rule, in which we didn't anticipate controversy, but because we got comments from this group C.L.A.S.H., we're doing this through the old rule-making process. But we're still asking people not to smoke where there are signs designating smoke-free areas." Those areas include playgrounds, and we're told that once the rules go into effect, those who refuse to voluntarily comply could face a $250 fine.
And ban or no ban, as Silk notes, those signs (like this) are already all over the place. So she's gearing up to sue over that, too! "There is only one way for the public to interpret this language," Silk says, "as meaning that smoking is prohibited by law. There's nothing to imply that the 'prohibition" is unenforceable, which it now clearly is. The Office of Parks' behavior goes from bad to worse—from at least the facade of official policy-making to settling for simply fooling people with unofficial signs."
Meanwhile Parks watchers aren't exactly jazzed by this new regression. Geoffrey Croft, of NYC Parks Advocates, for instance says it is "very disappointing that they would roll this back. We were concerned that it took so long for them to take action in the first place." Especially as there are a number state parks in the city (see Hudson River Park) and the rules about who exactly can issue a summons for smoking where is already tricky enough. Not that Croft is exactly loving the way that the troubled by design smoking ban in NYC parks has worked out. Smoking may be on the decline in the parks, but not nearly to the point the Health Department says it is "I appreciate the Health Dept. trying to promote this effort," Croft said after going over the many smokers he saw in the parks just this weekend. "I just found their 'study' to be highly unscientific to say the least."