By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
First S. Klein, then needle park and now cigarettes.
In another testament to change in Union Square and how New York has changed, homeowners in Zeckendorf Towers, the 29-story, 647-unit building constructed on the site of the defunct S.Klein Department Store, voted overwhelmingly to become a entirely smoke-free residence last week, sending the Marlboro and the Newport the way of the Marc Ballroom and Virgin Records.
83.5 percent voted in favor to prohibit smoking in both residential units and public areas for all new residents. Existing owners and residents can smoke for 3 more years before they have to butt out also.
“[This] will improve the quality of life for our neighbors and our community,” said Pete Ellis, a member of the Zeckendorf Tower condominium homeowners board. “We hope that our example will inspire other buildings throughout the city to go smoke-free and improve the health of our city.”
The board first mulled about going smoke-free in 2010, following numerous complaints from residents about cigarette smoke. It turned out that the board could legally prohibit smoking by amending the building’s bylaws.
85 percent of all unit owners voted on the measure.
The movement to create more smoke free residential buildings have begun to pick up steam. For example, applications for the new St. Nicholas Park Apartments in Harlem describe the building as a “100 percent smoke and pet free environment”. Advertsiments for apartments in multi-family buildings have begun to indicate the same.
“Smoke-free housing is a growing national trend, and we congratulate the board and management company of Zeckendorf Towers on this landmark move,” said Maria Pico, Borough Manager for the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership.
Pico says that since most apartments in Manhattan share up to 65 percent of all their air, it is impossible for residents to not breathe the secondhand smoke of a neighbor.
If you were dropped in 2013 from a time machine, the smoking ban in a residential development would be a big change from the 1970’s when the site of Zeckendorf was an abandoned hulk of a building, Union Square was full of drug addicts and you could smoke basically anywhere you wanted to.
The vote to go smoke free had residents Zeckendorf Towers thrilled.
“I am thrilled that such a large majority of my neighbors voted to make our building a healthier, safer, and more pleasant place to live,” said Andrea York, a homeowner at Zeckendorf Towers.“It feels great to know that I can sit in my living room and sleep in my bedroom with clean air again. Just like smokers have the right to smoke, non-smokers have the right to not inhale their smoke.”