MAYVILLE - The state parks system will have to wait two months before a series of new smoking bans will officially kick in, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week.
The governor said he would hold off on enacting the additional bans due to threats of a lawsuit, most notably by a smoker's advocacy group Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment.
Cuomo expects the rules to be in place by July, once the ban goes through a formal lawmaking process - including a public input session.
For the time being, the new nonsmoking areas will be considered voluntary. Those found to be smoking in those areas will not be charged until the ban becomes official.
"It's a good policy," Gary Quattrone, park manager III of the Allegany region, said last month of the restrictions. "It's a step in the right direction for the overall aesthetics of the parks. It targets where the children are, and it's definitely a sign of the times."
On Wednesday, Quattrone said he was surprised by the level of opposition the ban encountered when doled out last month.
"Looking at the amount of negative comments we received, I'm glad we're taking the time to hear both sides," he said, noting that any sign installed since April would stay up.
"They will be used to educate (people) in the park," Quattrone added.
Last month, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation announced they would begin installing no-smoking signs throughout the state parks and historical system. Areas that would become smoke-free include pavilions, beaches and rest areas.
The ban, however, was met with immediate backlash.
"These bans were imposed by bureaucrats' fiat, not legislative laws," said Audrey Silk, founder of CLASH. "And on that basis alone, they're unconstitutional."
Silk claims the state Parks Department overreached its authority by ignoring the state Legislature, which could not agree on new regulations.
In Allegany State Park, smoking will be banned at all beach areas, including Quaker, Red House and Long Point beaches. At the bath house areas, smoking would be prohibited in front of the concession stands. The same will go for all cabins and cottages and facility buildings within all park systems.
At Midway State Park, smoking will be prohibited near amusement park rides, the arcade area, picnic shelters and concession area.
Cuomo's announcement was a disappointment to some groups, especially those in the medical field.
"We are extremely disappointed to see media reports that the Cuomo administration has decided to delay implementation of its smoke-free state park and beach policy," said Jeff Seyler, CEO of the Northeast American Lung Association, in a statement.
"After a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, where thousands enjoyed smoke-free parks and beaches, New Yorkers will again be forced to breathe dangerous secondhand smoke for the next two months," he continued.