A government ban on smoking in your own home may seem ironhanded, but what if your home is public housing?
Proposed state legislation, co-sponsored by assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, seeks to ban smoking in public housing within four years—and recently received the support of county officials. Jaffee represents the state's 95th district, which includes Nyack, South Nyack and Piermont.
Affected by the tentative change would be the hundreds of Nyackers who live in subsidized homes across the village.
Currently titled New York State Assembly bill A.6097, the ruling would change the state's Public Health Law and prevent people from smoking in, or on the grounds of, any public housing units.
If passed, "at least 50 percent" of all public housing buildings in New York would immediately become smoke-free, the bill reads. The remaining units would become smoke-free as the current tenants moved out.
All public housing would be classified smoke-free by January 1, 2016, according to the bill.
"For residents of public housing, a neighbor's cigarette smoke can harm them as it seeps through the walls," Jaffee said. "This bill will help limit involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke and, ultimately, the negative health impacts associated with it."
In Nyack, the village operates two residential facilities that serve only Nyackers and would be directly impacted by the proposed law: Waldron Terrace, for families, and Depew Manor, for senior citizens. Waldron Terrace serves 88 families, and Depew Manor serves 48 seniors citizens; units range from studio apartments to four-bedrooms.
Rockland Gardens and Nyack Plaza are not operated by the village, but are state and federal housing complexes that could also be affected by the proposed legislation.
Toni Keys, the director of Nyack's housing authority, reports to the village's seven housing authority board members. Keys noted the bill's presence is no surprise.
"We've been preparing for it for a while—we assumed it was going to be a law sooner or later," she said.
Keys noted the housing board will begin crafting a policy that prepare residents for the coming change.
"They're going to try and tailor it toward the law, and the convenience of the tenants," she said.
The housing authority will start work on the policy in April or May during a workshop.
Melissa Castillo, a woman in her 20s who lives at the Waldron Terrace complex, said she has no problem with the possible ban—but noted her neighbors may.
"A lot of people are going to be upset," she said, explaining several nearby tenants are smokers. "But I agree with it—it's healthier."
Alden H. Wolfe, vice chairman of the Rockland County Legislature, sponsored a successful resolution earlier this year that supported the state's no-smoking bill.
"The facts are clear—second-hand tobacco smoke is a serious danger," Wolfe said. "There are a myriad of health issues that can affect a non-smoker—asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear and respiratory infections. Second-hand smoke seeps through walls and endangers the health of residents in other units."
"Children are especially vulnerable to exposure," he added. "All of our residents, particularly those with limited means, deserve to live in a healthy environment."
Wolfe also authored a local law that went into effect earlier this year and requires Rockland landlords to create and share smoking policies.
In late 2011, then-mayor Richard Kavesh's desire to downtown gave way to a passionate debate. Smoking is currently banned in Memorial Park.
The state bill, introduced in 2009, is slated to go before the state's Committee on Housing; no date has yet been set.
"The assemblywoman is pushing for it to move," said Michael Virga, Jaffee's director of communications.