Concern over health, the environment, and an evolving legal landscape has prompted a number of condo and co-op boards in communities across New York City’s five boroughs to ban cigarette smoking not only in common outdoor areas but in individual units. This restriction has ignited a heated debate over health/nuisance vs. individual rights, and both sides can be vehement in advocating for their position.
This follows on the heels of the 2002 decision when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg surprised many residents and tourists alike when he passed legislation enacting a ban in restaurants and bars. Last year, the Bloomberg administration extended the smoking ban to city parks, beaches, public plazas and boardwalks.
Building-wide smoking bans are a hot topic these days for boards and residents alike. It’s difficult issue to traverse however, situated as it is at the intersection of public health and private property.
“The talk of banning smoking amongst co-op and condo boards is on the rise,” says Georgia Lombardo-Barton, president of the New York City-based Barton Management LLC. “With the issue so prevalent, a number of unit and shareholders are lobbying board members and management to take stronger measures to eliminate smoking in their buildings.”
This pervasive, volatile issue is not just a New York movement as cases of smoking bans have been realized across the nation. For example, the municipality of Belmont, California passed a law in 2009 outlawing smoking in all apartment buildings, which resulted in both cheers and outrage from renters and unit owners.