Smokers’ rights advocates gathered on the Brighton Beach section of the Riegelmann Boardwalk on Saturday to protest the city’s latest smoking ban, affecting parks, beaches, boardwalks, marinas and other Parks Department-owned properties.
“It’s just another day at the beach, friends getting together, in the great outdoors where it can’t possibly hurt anyone,” said Audrey Silk, the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.), which organized the smoke-in.
Officials “have lied to everybody. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence that smoking outdoors is hurting anyone,” she said. “The one study they hold up gives you the half truth … the author of that study said that if you’re six feet away from a smoker, or upwind, your exposure is zero. [Legislators] have preferred to rescind our civil liberties rather than walk away. What a tyranny we’re living under now.”
About 20 people came from as far as the Bronx to protest the ban by lighting up on the boardwalk in front of news crews, but no police or Parks Enforcement patrols came to enforce the ban. That’s not to say the event went off without a snag, though. A small group of 16-year-olds was already at the location smoking cigarettes when the protesters arrived. C.L.A.S.H. asked them not to join the protest, to no avail.
Silk, a Manhattan Beach native, said she chose to hold her protest in Brooklyn because it has a “completely different attitude” than Manhattan, which fails to represent them, and she chose Brighton Beach in particular because of a Daily News letter-to-the-editor from a Russian resident who, in reference to the smoking ban, said she escaped persecution in the Soviet Union to enjoy such freedoms. Another protester, Anthony Bianco, claimed that Brighton Beach has the largest number of smokers per capita in all of New York City.