No-smoking signs will be returning to New York state public parks in the near future after a mid-level court recently reinstated a smoking ban that had previously been reversed due to a challenge from a smoker advocacy group.
Five judges serving on New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, ruled on December 21, 2014 that the state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation did not exceed its authority when it originally banned smoking from state parks and historic sites in 2012.
"All aspects of the regulation are grounded in (the agency's) stated purpose—to allow all patrons to enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty of its outdoor facilities," Justice Karen Peters wrote in her opinion.
In other words, it is once again illegal to smoke in New York state's historic sites and 178 public parks such as Bear Mountain State Park, Bethpage and even the seven state parks in New York City, including Riverbank State Park in Manhattan.
When the ban was first enacted in 2012, a smoker advocacy group called NYC C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment) sent a letter to the Parks Department that challenged the constitutionality of the smoking ban.
The letter pointed out that the New York State Legislature had rejected more than 19 bills that called for a state park smoking ban. It stated that the Parks Department exceeded its authority when it passed the smoking ban and superseded the Legislature's will.
In response to that letter, the State Parks Department voluntarily suspended its own ban, stating at the time that it would enter a full rulemaking process, including public hearings, as it sought a way to reintroduce the ban. The ban was reinstated again by the agency in February 2013.
However, in 2013, Supreme Court Justice George Ceresia sided with NYC C.L.A.S.H. after it filed a lawsuit against the state in which it argued that the ban opposed the wishes of state lawmakers and exceeded the department's authority.
It was this ruling that the judges overturned on December 31.