A month after New York City banned smoking in public parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas, a New York Daily News photographer remains the city's only recipient of a ticket for violating the law, after intentionally lighting up in front of Parks Department officers to prove lax enforcement for an article.
Photographer Pearl Gabel, after flagrantly puffing in the presence of a Parks Department officer for a couple hours, finally scored about 6 p.m.
"I warned you before," said Officer Carlton Conheim, a smoldering enforcement agent with a menthol green uniform.
Then he wrote out a $50 summons for ignoring the ban, which began on Monday, that prohibits smoking in parks, pedestrian plazas and beaches.
"Have a nice day," Conheim said.
Then he turned on his heels and headed back down the High Line.
Getting the ticket wasn't easy.
Gabel had to walk a mile with her Camel Lights before she even saw a Parks officer. Standing 4 feet away, the officer refused to even look at the shutterbug, who was smoking like a chimney as he passed.
Before the ban was passed, Mayor Bloomberg admitted that although park rangers had the right to write tickets for smoking (the NYPD is under instructions not to enforce the law) the ban would actually be enforced by "public pressure", i.e. New Yorkers nagging other New Yorkers to stop lighting up.
But without official enforcement and smokers openly flouting the law, some are wondering, "What's the point?"
"The new smoking law is an absolute joke," Ida Sanoff, 59 years old, who lives in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, told the Wall Street Journal. "I have asthma and there are days when I've had to move my chair three times because people, sometimes in groups, sat down near me and started smoking like chimneys."
The Parks & Recreation Department has recorded nearly 700 instances in which officials approached smokers and warned them of the new law, the Journal reports, and in those cases, the smokers were compliant and no tickets were handed out.
“We tell people to put out their cigarettes, and that there’s no smoking in the park,” Ranger Singhnani Raj. Soon told the Observer last month while patrolling Bryant Park.
It seems New York City is less interested in giving tickets to smokers than it is in raising awareness of the new law.
"As with any new law, compliance occurs over time as the public becomes increasingly aware of new rules," the health department said in a statement, obtained by the Journal. "To educate New Yorkers and visitors about the new law, signage has been posted throughout the city's parks and beaches."
Medical News reports that the city is in the process of erecting 3,000 to 4,000 permanent signs saying "Smell Flowers, Not Smoke".
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