Are New York City Housing Projects becoming Authoritarian?

HUD’s new smoke free law has banned all smoking in New York City Public housing units.

From herein, smoking is not permitted anywhere in or around the projects a.k.a public housing. This law includes a ban on individuals who are smoking in the comfort and security of their own apartment. What is most concerning about this new law is the logistics of how it will be enforced. With what evidence can an officer charge someone for smoking in their apartment without a warrant to go in the apartment and smell the smoke or see someone smoking? Another concern is, will people be falsely accused and reprimanded per these antismoking laws to be enforced in New York City public housing projects?

The only way one can imagine this rule being enforced is by an authoritarian kind of tactic of walking the halls and knocking on doors to inquire. This can possibly be a very dangerous situation for police officers and residents, whose makeup is mostly minorities. Can accusations of smoking lead to false tickets or arrests? Moreover, can these simple and unnecessary enforcements lead to an argument between citizens and authorities that cause someone to get hurt as a resident must respect authority but may be upset at the pettiness of the HUD anti-smoking law?

These kinds of enforcements remind me of when Sandra Bland was arrested and then mysteriously died in custody. Could there be a situation where someone who is rough in their appearance, who possibly is not welcomed anywhere other than the front yard of their project building be harassed for a simple cigarette which leads to an unfortunate result? This law may be possibly too much of an oppressive control on the public. Could the accusation of smoking a cigarette be an excuse for a police man to harass a minority? These are issues that raise concern when dealing with the HUD anti-smoking laws.

This law feels very authoritarian and draconian. To control what goes on in someone’s household is undemocratic to say the least, communist to say the most. Something else to consider is that smokers have rights and what smokers do in their own home is their own right.

In defense of HUD, they state that 32 million dollars will be saved in fire damage, however, are those fire damages from lit cigarettes? Also, the HUD claims that 300 million dollars will be saved in medical fees due to not living with smokers, however, people who are underprivileged tend to also have a diabetic problems as well as stress related illnesses and they all do not smoke.

When we interviewed someone from the George Washington Houses in the Bronx, who did not want to give his last name he said: “This is nothing but barbaric and authoritarian. We don’t need big brother to watch us like this! I just came out of the homeless shelter, life is not a picnic; in addition I can’t find a job! From there, I went in to the projects from the homeless shelter. I was in there with the worst. But now I can’t smoke in my own home? This aint Russia!! After what I been through, I need a smoke or a beer or something more!” (Timothy, public housing resident)

The poor will have to suffer more and be oppressed even more and an anti-smoking law that regulates what you do in your home is evidence of that.  This law can make New York City a lot of money in ticket revenue, but how much can New York City’s poor take? What made New York City great and something to invest is non-existent and what we’re left with is just a reason to move. Shame on New York City!


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