Despite a new law banning smoking and the $50 fine that goes along with being caught violating it, I recently spotted no fewer than 10 people light up on Brighton Beach and on the Riegelmann (or Coney Island) Boardwalk (considered a pedestrian plaza) in Brooklyn. The sand was littered with cigarette butts, and the air was heavy with the scent of cigarette smoke. On a trip to Central Park after seeing "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" last week, I counted seven smokers flouting the new law -- the NYPD officers nearby did not seem to care.
So I did what any concerned citizen in NYC would do. I called 311.
After almost laughing me off the phone, the operator asked me no fewer than three times if I really wanted to file a complaint about people violating the new law, explaining that the Parks Department was responsible for the enforcement of the new law. I found this interesting, especially since the Village Voice uncovered a document specifically telling the NYPD not to enforce the ban. According to the article, there were no summonses issued in the first week of the ban, and only one was issued in the first month in the entire city. An NYPD officer, speaking under the condition of anonymity, stated that, as a smoker, he found it "...hypocritical to ticket someone for something I myself do."
It is important to note that the ban does not affect all NYC area parks and beaches. Some parks in the city are exempt because they are not NYC parks (one such example would be Riverbank State Park in Manhattan) and are run by the state or private corporations. Matt Ford, a visitor from Los Angeles, was one of the persons I witnessed smoking in Central Park last Friday. When asked about the ban, Ford said "I saw the sign, but figured it would be impossible to enforce, so what's the big deal? You would think the New York Police have something better to do."
Something better, indeed. With hate crimes on the rise in NYC, and massive protests planned to take place Sunday when the first same-sex marriages take place, the NYPD has its hands full. So, for now, the law will be "self-enforcing." Until the city needs to increase revenue, that is.
- Riverbank State Park
- Central Park
- Brighton Beach
- Coney Island
- the Village Voice
- hate crimes
- New York City parks
- Los Angeles