By Mark Hallum
The January victory of non-smokers at North Shore Towers has spurred a trend in northeast Queens with the creation of the Bayside Smokefree Housing Alliance. The announcement came at Tuesday news conference held at the office of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).
Founder Phil Konigsberg worked to eliminate smoking in North Shore Towers and has now put together a collection of advocates who primarily work in the medical field and have a presence in the Bayside community. Smokefree Housing Alliance will work to increase the number of apartment buildings that follow the example of North Shore Towers.
“There are about 31 apartment buildings in the Bayside-Bay Terrace area and our objective is to transition as many as we can to smoke-free,” Konigsberg said. “I think we are going to be able to sell breathing free air. Why would someone not want to buy into living with clean, safe air?”
Dr. Robert Mittman has an asthma and allergy practice on Bell Boulevard and said many of his patients live in apartment buildings where up to 70 percent of the air in each building is recirculated.
“Exposure to second-hand smoke is a trigger for asthma attacks and other health risks,” Mittman said. “Eliminating smoke in the homes of my patients and the community at large would create a Bayside and New York City with healthier residents.”
Kevin Forrestal, president of the Queens Civic Congress, compared smoking to hard drugs in that those addicted to other substances have no immediate health impact on those around them. Tobacco, however, has the potential to affect everyone around the smoker.
“Everyday, every moment someone is smoking, they are invading us and it is really incumbent upon us as citizens to fight this invasion and say, ‘No, you cannot poison us,’” Forrestal said. “It is an insidious practice, it is an addiction and we shouldn’t let this addiction spread into our homes.”
Eileen Miller, the Health chairwoman of Community Board 11 and a nurse practitioner, has long advocated for the preventative measures for second-hand smoke related health issues.
“As an adult nurse practitioner, I have been passionate about community members living in a smoke-free environment since I have seen the devastation to patients from the effects of second-hand smoke,” Miller said. “It is my belief that every life should be cherished. We hope to spread this idea of smoke-free housing across our great city.”
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said he has introduced bills to outlaw smoking in cars with children under the age of 14 and supported the bill banning E-cigarettes any place where actual cigarettes are not allowed.
“New Yorkers have known the dangers of second-hand smoke for sometime now,” Weprin said. “While we protect ourselves from stadiums, parks and public transportation, we continually expose ourselves and our loved ones to second-hand smoke at home. We have a responsibility to protect our loved ones from this threat.”
Although North Shore Towers was able to ban smoking in buildings owned by the co-op by taking a shareholders’ vote, other organizations such as NYC Smoke-Free have been able to work with landlords to improve air quality in non-NYCHA and rental buildings.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall