By Phil Konigsberg
New Year’s Day started off with a great celebration for the residents of North Shore Towers, the 1,844 apartment co-op in Floral Park, Queens, as it became the largest smoke-free private residential building in New York (another No. 1 ranking for Queens County) as well as the United States.
Accolades must be extended to the board of directors of NST for their decision to move forward with their progressive business decision and plan. They recruited the assistance of a multitude of dedicated individuals from both within and outside the co-op to educate, communicate and advocate to their shareholders the benefits of a smoke-free apartment policy. That was a crucial step to motivate the shareholders to approve the proposed amendment to their by-laws and proprietary lease. The result of their efforts was an overwhelming vote to approve the change.
North Shore Towers is not the first market rate (or city-subsidized) residential building to implement a smoke-free apartment policy. There are a growing number of co-ops, condos and rental buildings throughout Queens and other boroughs. But with this addition to the smoke-free column, I hope it will be a catalyst to others living in apartments to clear the shared air in their homes as well.
It should also signal to landlords, property managers and developers that it is now OK to transition to smoke-free premises. You will not be on the frontier anymore. In California, 25 cities and/or counties have enacted laws prohibiting smoking in private residential units. Just ask Related Companies and Dunn Development, which have been in the forefront of building and managing smoke-free residential buildings. If you ask them they will tell you that:
1. A smoke-free policy is a free amenity with no cost to the owner and it makes better business sense than a building that allows smoking;
2. The fire and property damage risk is appreciably reduced by operating a smoke-free residential building
3. For apartment rentals, the cleaning costs are significantly higher for turning over an apartment after a smoker moved out than a non-smoking tenant.
In addition, although some maintain the belief that transitioning to a smoke-free premises would create a legal liability for them or be a violation of someone’s civil rights, the truth is smokers are not a protected class and by allowing a smoking policy to exist, the landlord is more susceptible to legal liability of violating a residents warranty of habitability.