Long after he's gone from City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg will be remembered for cracking down on smoking: not only in bars and restaurants, but now, in public parks and beaches as well. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking the city's smoking ban to a whole new level. Pen in hand, he made it official on Tuesday, outlawing smoking in city parks, on beaches, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas, like Times Square.
"This one came from people who just kept calling and saying, 'Come on, stop it there,'" Bloomberg told reporters.
The mayor and supporters of the new law say it will protect people from second-hand smoke and also cut down on litter from cigarette butts.
"Soon, when a parent goes to Coney Island with a three-year-old, and the three-year-old reaches into the sand to pick out a treasure, that treasure will be a seashell instead of a cigarette butt," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
The mayor outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in 2002. He credits that crackdown and other anti-smoking measures with improving the health of New Yorkers.
"There are, I'm happy to say, 350,000 fewer people who smoke and New Yorkers are living 19 months longer than they did in 2002. It's an amazing thing," Bloomberg said.
But the legislation has its opponents, to be sure. And they're not all smokers. City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, for one, says she doesn't light up. She's one of 12 Council members who voted against the bill.
"Smoking, while it's ill-advised, smokers have rights and I think we've taken a step too far today in curtailing people's civil liberties," Mendez said.
New Yorkers who light up in parks and beaches run the risk of getting hit with a $50 fine. But they don't need to be on the lookout for the men and women in blue.
It won't be police officers, but rather park officials in charge of handing out the tickets. In most cases though, it will be regular New Yorkers who end up enforcing the law.
"What I would do is say, 'Excuse me, please don't smoke. It's against the law.' It's almost a citizens to citizens, resident to resident enforcement," said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer.
The new law takes effect in 90 days.