Today’s news:

Smoking snuffed in parks

Members of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance took a celebratory breath of fresh air Monday morning in recognition of the new ban on smoking in the city’s parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas.

“This restores everyone’s right to breathe fresh air,” said BTCA President Warren Schreiber with the backdrop of the Throgs Neck Bridge behind him in Little Bay Park.

The ban, which went into effect Monday, is a quality-of-life rule. City Parks Enforcement Officers have the ability to issue summonses for violations, but the department expects the rule to be self-regulated.

“There are concerns about enforcing it,” said BTCA officer Phil Konigsberg. “We ourselves will enforce it.”

Konigsberg compared possible resistance from smokers to the new ban to that experienced when the city outlawed smoking in bars or when smoking was banned on airplanes.

Schreiber said he believed most people would obey the law and that he did not think park entrances would be crowded with clouds of smoke from displaced smokers.

“I think people who leave the park to smoke will leave entirely and go on their way,” he said.

Responding to a question from a reporter, he said he had no position on whether smoking should be made entirely illegal.

“Some say this is an extension of the nanny state,” he said. “The definition of a nanny is a person who looks after children. This law is about protecting children and the most vulnerable among us.”

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said she believes the health of her own children, ages 1 and 3, is threatened by second-hand smoke in parks.

“This law, literally, will save thousands of lives in New York City,” she said.

Members of the BTCA also sighted non-biodegradable cigarette butts as some of the most difficult litter items for the city Parks Department to pick up.

Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) expressed his support for the ban as well and congratulated the BTCA as the first civic group to press the issue in the city. Schreiber said the group took up the issue in the fall of 2007 through online petitions and advocacy of their elected officials.

He said the smoking ban was one of the questions the group asked of every guest at their annual Meet the Candidate Nights and that they testified before the Parks and Health committees at a City Hall hearing.

“We have great parks here,” said Konigsberg. “This is not just about our neighborhood, but the whole city — and next the state.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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