Streams

A City Park Where Lighting Up Is Still Lawful

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bill Paley, the son of William Paley, now runs the luxury La Palina Cigars brand, smoking in Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of his family's park. Bill Paley, the son of William Paley, now runs the luxury La Palina Cigars brand, smoking in Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of his family's park. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The city’s public park smoking ban went into effect Monday, but there's one park in the city where the smell of smoke is still celebrated.

On the 44th anniversary of Paley Park in Midtown, the heir to the Paley cigar company, Bill Paley, invited fellow tobacco enthusiasts for a smoke in the fine-free zone insde the park created by his father. Dozens of smokers from across the city stopped by for a puff in the tobacco oasis.

"When smoking cigars becomes restricted, I want to let people know where they can come, sit back, relax and enjoy this city," said Paley, the two- to three-cigar-a-day smoking mogul. 

Paley is the son of William Paley, the media mogul who founded CBS, whose father was a Ukrainian immigrant who started La Palina Cigars. The "vest-pocket park," created by William Paley is private, therefore not under the smoking ban restrictions. 

"I was born on a used car lot and cigars are part of it," George Mandler, 59, said.

He said he started smoking cigars at 9-years old, and said the ban isn't going to stop him from lighting up in public parks.

"But I'm respectful of other people’s space," he said. He thinks banning it in bars and restaurants was reasonable, but "extending it to public parks is going too far."

Few smokers saw the event as a protest, rather a social event for discussing their odorous habit.

"It's nice to know a place where we aren't considered evil or the enemy," said Barry Stein, 42, from Brighton Beach, a smoker of 14 years who said he understands why the ban exists but still wishes there was a place he could still smoke in parks.

Sally Sorkin, 65, one of two females cigar enthusiasts at Paley Park Monday evening said she loves the parks and understands the reason for the ban but finds the smell of the dog park to be just as unpleasant: "They've got a dog corner for god’s sake, why not a place for smokers?" she asked.

Ron Melendi, the general manager of the cigar shop De La Concha, called the ban "prohibition through increments." He fears the city is overreaching and believes next smokers won't even be allowed to smoke on sidewalks. 

As the sun faded and the Paley Park waterfall began glowing the same color as the cigars choking the air around it, Bill Paley climbed the granite stairs for an impromptu speech to devotees of rolled tobacco. He described the park his father created as an oasis for people to express their freedom.

"You'll always be welcome here," he said smiling with open arms. He examined his cigar, little more than a nub, and took a deep puff.

smoking, cigars
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Keith Moorehouse, 47, from England was caught smoking cigarettes at 13, so his father forced him to smoke a whole cigar. He never smoked cigarettes again, but started on cigars at 24.

Sally Sorkin, 65, and her husband Trevor Sorkin, 69, from England, smoking in Paley Park.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Sally Sorkin, 65, and her husband Trevor Sorkin, 69, from England, smoking in Paley Park.

Cigar enthusiasts smoking at Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of the park, the same day smoking was banned in the city's public parks.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Cigar enthusiasts smoking at Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of the park, the same day smoking was banned in the city's public parks.

Barry Stein, 42, has been smoking for 14 years. He lives in Brighton Beach and wishes the city would create designated smoking spots in public parks.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Barry Stein, 42, has been smoking for 14 years. He lives in Brighton Beach and wishes the city would create designated smoking spots in public parks.

smoke, park, smoking
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Ron Melendi, the general manager of the De La Concha cigar shop.

George Mandler, 59, a smoker of 50 years in Paley Park to enjoy a post-work cigar.
Stephen Nessen

George Mandler, 59, a smoker of 50 years in Paley Park to enjoy a post-work cigar.

Cigar enthusiasts smoking at Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of the park, the same day smoking was banned in the city's public parks.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

Cigar enthusiasts smoking at Paley Park on the 44th anniversary of the park, the same day smoking was banned in the city's public parks.

J. Glynne Loope, the executive director of Cigar Rights of America, urged the tobacco enthusiasts to think of themselves as
Stephen Nessen/WNYC

J. Glynne Loope, the executive director of Cigar Rights of America, urged the tobacco enthusiasts to think of themselves as "a cigar voters," and pressure their local politicians to fight for smokers' rights.

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Comments [14]

Senor Cigar from Brooklyn, NY

It truly is a beautiful space. An oasis in the concrete jungle we call New York City for those of us who smoke cigars..

Jun. 05 2011 12:12 PM
Willy D from Bx from Bronx Ny

I laugh as a man who smokes and who stood at bus stops, how many people who complain about cigarettes and cigars do not make a peep when standing down wind of a plume of unburnt diesel soot from a idling bus. They are getting a dose of concentrated dinosaur cremation soup, with carbon chains in the 10,000's of parts per million, complaining about people smoking a leaf. The real worry should be the radiation your inhaling from the Japanese Nuke disaster, the USA is down wind from Japan, and from what I hear , most states have radiation levels 40-100x normal. This is also private property, and pollutes the air less than 1 bus stop , if you don't like it , leave.

Jun. 03 2011 12:33 AM
kevin from park slope

I endorse Sally Sorkin's thought -- I'd love to see the city create a jail-like pen for smokers to congregate.

Sally Sorkin, 65, one of two females cigar enthusiasts at Paley Park Monday evening said she loves the parks and understands the reason for the ban but finds the smell of the dog park to be just as unpleasant: "They've got a dog corner for god’s sake, why not a place for smokers?" she asked.

May. 25 2011 08:33 AM
Bob

Per the National Cancer Institute, "For every gram of tobacco smoked, there is more cancer-causing tar in cigars than in cigarettes."

The cigar-smoker who indulges himself in a location where NO secondary smoke is inhaled by non-smokers self-inflicts himself with cancer, which the democratic rights someone else sacrificed to create for his benefit give him the legal latitude to do. He then incurs hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical costs and cavalierly insists they be paid for his benefit from insurance and medicare pools funded by non-smokers who didn't foolishly damage themselves.

The solution is simple. The person who cavalierly demands his right to do himself unnecessary damage should simply cavalierly insist on signing a legally binding waiver of his rights to have others pick up the cost of the consequences of his folly. That's when his conclusion that he doesn't damage others begins to have validity.

May. 24 2011 09:09 PM
Barry From Sheepshead Bay from Brooklyn

Mike From USA- The park is privately owned and therefore is not a city park. Since it is private property the law cannot be enforced.

Kathleen, The NYPD already said they will not enforce the law. So if the cop was smoking congrats to him. Blame the park police as they are the ones that should enforce it.

All I know is the USA is no longer the land of the free... Sad since is not what my grandfather fought for.

May. 24 2011 03:53 PM
Fiona from Clinton Hill Brooklyn

I am an ex-smoker and I have to say I feel this ban is a little too much!

I like the comment about the dog spots within the park why not a smoker's bench or area...but really unless smoking is illegal (and it's not) I'm not really sure how they can justify banning it in a free and open space that is meant for all to use. If you don't like being down wind from a smoker there is always space to move in a park, it isn't like a restaurant or cafe etc.

A little tolerance please NY, don't take yourself too seriously! It doesn't go with teh image!

May. 24 2011 02:04 PM

I am a smoker and agree with the smoking ban. I agree there are tons of other pollutants that should be addressed in NYC but this is at least a start. Since smokers seem to be outnumbered in NYC I can understand accomadating non-smokers, especially if the reasoning is based soley on health related issues.

May. 24 2011 01:32 PM
brian from Brooklyn

The west side of Prospect Park, in the height of summer, is choked with smoke from scores of charcoal barbecues. From what I have read, burning charcoal is hazardous and polluting. Should barbecuing be banned?

May. 24 2011 12:26 PM
Mike from USA

Is smoking allowed because it is a state park, not city property? The article should have said.

May. 24 2011 10:19 AM
Mike from Brooklyn, NY

Just to clarify - this is not a health-related issue. If you happen to catch a whiff of smoke in the park, you will not get lung cancer. Sorry. Secondhand smoke is an issue if you're continuously exposed to it in a confined space, but not if you're downwind from it now and again. Some people don't like it so it's illegal for the rest of us. Whereas having pollution concentrated in areas like the South Bronx and Queensbridge/Ravenswood is a genuine health hazard such that every kid who grows up in those areas has asthma - that is a health-related issue that should be dealt with legally.

May. 24 2011 10:18 AM
Jade from Paley Park

Why is there no mention of the park's location? It's as if y ou think you're going to keep us from doing something naughty by not sharing the info. (53rd, btw Madison & 5th)

May. 24 2011 08:19 AM
Barry Blitstein from New York City

On Sunday, the day before the ban went into effect, I saw a gaggle of heavy lifters ostentatiously smoking at the south edge of Herald Square mall. I suppose working people's resentments are justifiable when one considers the circumscribed lives most of us lead as a result of wealth concentration and corporate lobbying. Dedication to a dubious freedom to smoke may be pathetic but it is to be expected.

May. 24 2011 08:17 AM
Kathleen Christie from Brooklyn

I suppose it should ease my frustration that no tickets were given, as I observed a mounted officer smoking in a park while on duty yesterday as I walked to work. It only adds to my all to frustrating anger that the police, contrary to being models of good behavior, persistently live above the law.

May. 24 2011 07:56 AM
Barry from Sheepshead Bay

"the Paley Park waterfall began glowing the same color as the cigars choking the air around it"

C'mon Stephen, The park was spacious and the smoke was not choking the air. This ruined a perfect article. It was a cheap shot that was not a reflection of the event.

May. 23 2011 11:27 PM

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