NEW YORK – In the first month of New York City’s new smoking ban in 1,700 parks and along 14 miles of beaches, the city has issued a grand total of one ticket, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
That single ticket went to a newspaper photographer who had been goading officials to issue a ticket, a spokeswoman for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department said. The new ban — spanning parks, beaches, marinas and pedestrian plazas, such as in Times Square — took effect May 23.
City officials say they always planned lax enforcement of the anti-smoking ban in the early days. They say their focus now is on getting the word out, not on writing tickets.
Still, the dearth of tickets, coupled with the reality that many people are flagrantly violating the law, has left some questioning whether the city is truly committed to keeping these new smoke-free zones actually smoke free.
“The new smoking law is an absolute joke,” said Ida Sanoff, 59, who lives in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, and enjoys spending time at the ocean. “I have asthma and there are days when I’ve had to move my chair three times because people, sometimes in groups, sat down near me and started smoking like chimneys.”
Since May 23, the Parks & Recreation Department has recorded roughly 700 instances in which officials approached smokers and informed them of the new law; in those cases, the smokers have been compliant, officials said.
Parks Department officials are authorized to enforce the law and may issue fines of $50 per violation.
But the city is hoping the law will largely be self-enforcing. When lawmakers passed the new law, they deliberately prohibited police officers from issuing any tickets related to the smoke ban.
Council Member Gale Brewer, the law’s lead sponsor, said this will be the “summer of warnings.”
“I don’t want people to get tickets and feel like there is somebody doing this for revenue,” she said. “I like the fact that there are warnings.”
At some point in the future, if people continue to violate the law, Brewer said she expected the city will step up enforcement.