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Ossining Mixed While Mulling Park Smoking Ban

OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining Town Council members said Tuesday night that they have mixed thoughts while considering a new law that could put restrictions on smoking in town parks.

Weighing the public’s concerns on the proposed law might be more difficult as well with one resident commenting Tuesday during a public hearing on the issue. The legislation in front of the board does not prohibit smoking in all areas of town parks, but adds several limitations. If the measure is adopted during the board's next regular meeting, smoking would be banned in playground and picnic areas, inside facilities and within 50 feet of any facility entrance, all athletic fields and fenced areas of the Dog Park at Cedar Lane Park, according to town documents.

Ossining resident Jerry Gershner said he was against smoking, but was confused as to how the proposed law could be enforced.

“I’m opposed to smoking but we’re making a law that is simply going to be unenforceable because there’s no one there to enforce it,” Gershner said, adding that he didn’t think it right to take patrolmen away from other law enforcement duties to watch residents in parks. “So what are we making a law for?”

From MTA platforms to restaurants and even New York City parks, the list of areas where smoking is prohibited is rising. Town Council member Northern Wilcher said he’s a smoker and doesn’t think it would be right to prohibit smoking in all areas of the parks.

“People work all day and sometimes they may want to go to a park in the evening and sit down and have a cigarette,” Wilcher said. With the initial proposal to ban “smoking everywhere, I was thinking that it was going to make us not park-friendly. But with this new proposal I think I can go along with it.”

Council member Eric Blaha, who said he’s a non-smoker, wanted to be careful about adding more legislation to public areas.

“It’s a touchy area whether you’re a smoker or not,” he said. “I advocated for the rights of smokers to be able to smoke because I think park land is open space and public and should be open to all.”

Town officials said the Ossining Parks and Recreation Advisory Board initially approached council members last year on putting smoking restrictions around area parks. The Town of Ossining maintains roughly 130 acres of park land, including some areas of Briarcliff Manor, according to the town's website. The town's parks include Ryder Park, Gerlach Park, Louis Engel Waterfront Park, Buck Johnson Park and Cedar Lane Park. Village of Ossining officials are not currently considering any legislation on smoking in public parks. 

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