Cigarettes have been extinguished forever at North Shore Towers and Country Club after shareholders of the 1,844-unit Queens cooperative voted overwhelmingly to protect residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke by prohibiting lighting up in any of the residential buildings on the 110-acre property. This achievement was due to a unique collaboration between the community’s board of directors, Northwell Health and NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions.
The smoke-free resolution needed to be approved by two-thirds of co-op owners to amend the existing lease, something residents did with 72 percent of the vote. When the new bylaws go into effect on January 1, 2017, North Shore Towers will be the largest cooperative to implement smoke-free protections in New York City and possibly the United States.
“By establishing a smoke-free environment, North Shore Towers’ residents have created one of the healthiest places to live in Queens,” said Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, CDN, assistant vice president of public health and community partnerships at Northwell Health. “Their partnership in promoting health and wellness supports Northwell Health’s population health initiatives.”
As part of Northwell Health's Community Service Plan's tobacco control initiative, the health care system has worked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and NYC Smoke-Free for the past four years to promote smoke-free environments throughout Queens. That included advising the board and giving a presentation to the North Shore Towers community on the benefits of a smoke-free environment and the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the nation, according to the CDC. The mortality rate for smokers is three times higher – lung cancer and heart disease are leading killers – than for people who never smoked. And exposure to secondhand smoke can be just as deadly.
“When a board of directors works cooperatively and in the best interest of the community, it can accomplish miracles,” said North Shore Towers Board member Phyllis Goldstein. “Their decision to attempt to safeguard the health of all its residents by making North Shore Towers a smoke-free cooperative was a caring, non-political initiative.”
This was the second time Northwell and NYC Smoke-Free helped organize a vote to snuff out smoking at North Shore Towers. The first effort failed. To ensure all shareholders were aware of the proposal and its broad health implications this time, volunteers canvassed the three buildings and votes were cast during a two-month window. The result was an 88 percent turnout rate, which helped deliver a major public health victory by converting the co-op – so large it has its own zip code – to a smoke-free environment.
“North Shore Towers’ historic vote to go entirely smoke-free effective January 1, 2017 ensures that its vibrant community of seniors, families and children will be protected from tobacco pollution in their homes,” said Joel M. Bhuiyan, Queens Community Engagement Coordinator at NYC Smoke-Free. “We were thrilled to be help educate their residents on the dangers of secondhand smoke and the advantages of adopting a smoke-free policy, which in the end garnered overwhelming support.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), an advocate for smoking cessation programs, commended the residents for their forward thinking at an event Monday marking the important resolution. Also in attendance: New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D- Oakland Gardens); Queens Civic Congress President Kevin Forrestal; Phil Konigsberg (Community Board 7); Eileen Miller (Community Board 11); along with presidents of three smoke-free Queens co-ops, Marc Haken (Hilltop Village Co-op #4), Mel Doby (Hilltop Co-op Village #1) and Mary Boyd-Foy (Hilltop Village Co-op #2).
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 61,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and nearly 3,400 physicians, including nearly 2,700 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners -- are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.
About NYC Smoke-Free
NYC Smoke-Free – a program of Public Health Solutions, one of the country's largest public health institutes and one of New York's leading nonprofit organizations – works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. For over 20 years, NYC Smoke-Free – formerly the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City – has led community efforts to establish and expand smoke-free protections in New York City. We believe every New Yorker has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work, and play. For more information, please visit www.NYCSmokeFree.org