Two Queens complexes have smoke-free living

Hilltop Village in Hollis is one of only a handful of housing units in Queens to offer smoke-free apartment complexes. Photo by Steve Mosco
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Residents in a co-op building at Hilltop Village in Hollis can breath easy in their apartments now that it has snuffed out cigarettes and is completely smoke-free.

“I wish they did the same where I live,” said Mindy Rodriguez, who lives in the neighborhood and was walking her dog in front of Hilltop Village, at 87-50 204th St. “I don’t like smoking to begin with and when I start thinking about possible fires, I really start to worry.”

Two organizations are working to tamp out that worry and extinguish smoking, making the borough healthier for smokers and non-smokers alike.

Representatives from North Shore-LIJ Health System and Queens Smoke Free Partnership, a health advocacy nonprofit funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Health, are trying to clear the smoke from residential housing units in Queens by alerting building owners to the heath and safety risks of smoking.

“Much of the air in apartment buildings is shared among the residents,” said Yvette Buckner-Jackson, the borough manager for Queens Smoke Free Partnership. “This air travels through the unit through vents, cracks, outlets — it’s a huge issue.”

Nancy Copperman, director of community health for LIJ, has been working with YMCAs and other groups in Queens to limit the public’s exposure to secondhand smoke. She said that health problems associated with smoking do not stay within the walls of a smoker’s apartment.

“When you are exposed to cigarette smoke 24/7, there is an increased chance for asthma, respiratory infections and over time cancer and heart disease,” said Copperman. “We have banned smoking in restaurants, workplaces and parks, but where we live and spend the most time is where the most exposure occurs.”

Buckner-Jackson cited two properties in Queens in particular that have eliminated smoking in apartment units — the properties include an apartment complex, at 34-28 80th St. in Jackson Heights as well as the co-op in Hollis. In these two instances, the smoke-free advocates said building owners were receptive, though that is not always the case.

“There’s about a 50/50 chance we’ll be turned away,” said Copperman, adding that they are trying to push for smoke-free units in Bayside, Astoria, Glendale and Forest Hills.

Copperman said there is some push back from people who say banning smoking in people’s homes is a violation of personal rights, but she went on to say that this is different than a ban on sugary drinks and trans fats because smoking affects more than just the user.

“It’s more of a violation of the rights of people around the smoker,” she said, adding that policing a smoking ban is akin to the monitoring of noise complaints.

Buckner-Jackson said she believes education has been key in the decrease of public smoking and hopes more education will lead to a decrease in residential smoking as well.

“The smoking numbers have declined and I truly believe that most smokers want to quit,” she said. “They need education and they need to know there are treatments out there. No one has to quit cold turkey anymore.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 12:00 am, February 23, 2013
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Reader feedback

Audrey Silk from Brooklyn says:
The noise complaint analogy stinks worse than any whiff of cigarette smoke. People are still allowed to play their music or talk for that matter as long as it's low enough. Marry that to the outrageous assertion that someone smoking in their own apartment can be a risk for someone in another apartment. Rather, even if, for argument's sake a whiff of smoke makes it through someone's keyhole, it's the equivalent of playing music low enough. Anyone who believes the fraudulent tortured claims about harm because someone is smoking in another apartment does so only because it appeals to either their bias or irrational fear. Because if it takes, as the anti-smokers assert, 30 to 40 years for PRIMARY smoking -- a person inhaling multiple cigarettes per day directly into their lungs -- to maybe cause that person harm, then how can you reconcile that whiffs over even 2 lifetimes can harm you? But I tell ya what... if "toxins" are your basis then okay, let's ban "toxins." If cigarette smoke can make it through light fixtures then so can cleaning products, air fresheners, pet hair/dander and perfume/cologne -- a proven allergen which cigarette smoke is not as it contains no allergens -- is certainly is lingering in the elevators and halls. Why isn't the perfume allergy sufferer's issues not being equally met? Then know too that studies show stress is like smoking. Your child running above me and and in the halls has me at my last nerve. Watch out landlords, we'll sue you for all those too now -- plus the flu we catch from being made to go outside in the winter. Hope too I don't get mugged out there when I'd otherwise would have been in my apartment. You're taking a non-existent threat and making potential real victims out of the people being discriminated against and their private property rights infringed upon. G*d help the old and disabled smokers who can't get out anytime they'd like. Now you're consigning them to a jail where the warden (building owner) declares their imprisonment puts them at his mercy: "Just quit or live in extra misery if you can't get out." Live his way or hit the highway. All over a fraud.

Founder, NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.)
Feb. 23, 2013, 5:51 am
Baysidemama from Little neck says:
Would that apply to cannabis as well?
Feb. 23, 2013, 2:45 pm

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