New York cigar smokers received some good news Tuesday when the State Parks Department announced it is suspending its own ban on smoking in parks, a mere 50 days after it was instituted.
The surprising move comes after NYC C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harrassment) sent a letter to the Parks Department on May 1 that challenged the constitutionality of the smoking ban.
The letter pointed out that the New York State Legislature has 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 It stated that the Parks Department exceeded its authority when it passed the smoking ban and superseded the Legislature’s will.
"These bans were imposed by bureaucratic fiat, not legislated law," said Audrey Silk, founder of C.L.A.S.H., "and on that basis alone, they're unconstitutional."
The smoking ban affected 178 parks such as Bear Mountain State Park, Bethpage and even six parks in New York City, including Riverbank State Park in Manhattan.
No-smoking signs will remain in the state parks; the State Parks Department has stated it will enter a full rulemaking process, including public hearings, as it seeks a way to reintroduce the ban. Silk said C.L.A.S.H. intends to fight to remove the signs. For now, it’s legal to smoke in a New York State-run park or beach.
As a reminder, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters today that New York City’s park smoking ban will remain in effect, despite what the state does.
Last year, New York City Council passed a controversial outdoor smoking ban that made it illegal to smoke in its 1,700 parks and 14 miles of city beaches.
While the ban was supposed to be self-enforced, according to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, 212 tickets have been issued by city park officers since the ban took effect last May. (This number does not include tickets handed out by New York police officers.) A ticket for smoking in a New York City park starts at $50, with repeat offenders subject to higher fines.
While public parks in New York City remain smoke-free, some private parks, including Samuel Paley Park located at 3 East 53rd Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, may still be cigar-friendly.