Even as smokers of New York City are desperately looking for a place where they can draw long puffs on their cigarettes without being penalized or admonished for it, a condominium in Upper West Side has passed a law to prohibit residents from lighting up in their apartments. Located at Broadway and 99th Street, 32-story Ariel West Condominiums approved the ban by vote of 47 to 3; 46 being the supermajority that was needed to change the condo’s bylaws.
Although rental buildings have passed laws banning smoking earlier, previous tenants were exempt from having to abide by them. In a radical move, Ariel West is one of the first condos in the city to implement such an extensive ban on people living within the premises. In addition to the new tenants that take up residence at Ariel West, the law also applies to previous tenants who may have moved in before the ban but are not excluded by it.
As an idea, the smoking ban was first proposed by the President of the condo board – Gideon Stein. His belief is that “people do not have a constitutional right to smoke.” Having floated the idea with some trepidation, Stein gave up on it for a while since he realized he would have to mobilize a building-wide campaign to see the proposal through.
However, after repeated complaints came in from homeowners about cigarette smell seeping into their apartments through air vents in bathrooms and kitchen, Stein decided to get a little more serious about it. A straw poll taken in March revealed that 33 homeowners were in favor of a smoking ban. Over the next few weeks Stein would spend his days and nights gathering the remaining 13 votes that were required to constitute a super-majority. Eventually, he did get them and the by-laws were changed.
That said, Ariel West is not out to become a police state with tenants cowering behind doors, even as legions of “sniffers” and “investigators” descend upon them, turn their apartment inside out in their search for microscopic signs of smoking; hauling you off to jail, if it is discovered. The enforcement of the ban will be more complaint driven than anything else. Should you persist in your smoking habits, you might find it burning a hole in your pocket. The first complaint against you could cost you $150, and each successive complaint will only succeed in increasing the fine by $150.
Some tenants agree that the idea behind a condo-wide ban is a pretty controversial one since it infringes on the basic liberties of an individual to do as he pleases when he’s in his house. However, when cigarette smoke seeps into neighbors’ apartments and spoils their environment, you are faced with the more serious concern of interfering with another man’s quality of life. Besides living in a condo does mean that you have to go along with any changes that are implemented. As Eva C. Talel, the condo board’s lawyer puts it, “…part of what you do when you buy into a community is you buy into a set of rules that could change if a sufficient number of your neighbors want them to.”