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Photos by Stephen Vrattos
Photos by Stephen Vrattos

North Shore Towers, a gated co-op with 1,844 apartments near the Queens/Nassau border, voted in favor of passing bylaws banning cigarette smoking within any enclosed spaces on the 110-acre property — including inside of apartments.

This makes them the largest cooperative in New York City to implement smoke-free protections. The new by-laws will take effect on Jan. 1.

“This is one of the largest cooperative communities in the city,” Council Member Barry Grodenchik said at a Dec. 19 press conference at North Shore Towers. “I know that this could not have been easy … But this is a tremendous step forward in the health and well-being of all the people who not only live here, but also work here and visit here on a daily basis. And that is a lot of people.”

The effort was spearheaded by Phyllis Goldstein, a resident and board member at North Shore Towers.

“Why did we do this?” Goldstein said. “We are a community that works together; and we also breathe the same air.”

Goldstein explained that about 50 volunteers organized and took to the complex of three 33-story buildings with 1,844 total units for a near two-month campaign, working hard to make sure people were informed and cast their ballots.

“These people worked with me every single week for seven weeks making strategies,” Goldstein said.

Because of their efforts, Goldstein and volunteers were able to get a 88 percent voter turnout — with 73 percent of those shareholders voting in favor of the bylaws.

“Our community wanted it, voted for it and got it,” Goldstein said. “So it can be done. As difficult as it is, it can happen.”

The cooperative worked in collaboration with Northwell Health and NYC Smoke Free to inform residents about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke during the campaign. The two groups made an educational, joint presentation at the co-op back in August that was so well attended it was standing room only, according to Goldstein.

“[The initiative] is not against the smoker; it’s against the smoking,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at Northwell Health.

Copperman explained that resources are available to residents — and New Yorkers in general — who are trying to quit smoking, including the New York State Smoker’s Quitline and Northwell Health’s Center for Tobacco Control.

“By creating a smoke-free environment you remove all the toxins in the air that we know cause many chronic diseases, cause hospital admissions and decrease quality of life,” Copperman. “Here at North Shore Towers, you’ve created a healthy environment that not only promotes health, but gives the residents, visitors, children, grandchildren and employees of North Shore Towers the chance to breathe easily and breathe healthy.”

“The credit really goes to North Shore Towers and all the shareholders here for really taking a huge step forward in eliminating smoking and improving everybody’s health,” state Senator Tony Avella said. “It really is a tremendous achievement, and you’re taking the lead.”

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