With an eye to keeping tenants healthy, officials from the Macedonia Community Development Corp. announced last week that its under-construction affordable housing building in Flushing will be smoke-free when it opens next year.
The corporation is a subsidiary of the Macedonia AME Church, which is building the 142-unit building next door at Union Street and 37th Avenue, in Municipal Parking Lot 1.
The 14-story building will include a combination of studio one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. It is scheduled to open next March.
“We are proud to take a stand and provide a tobacco-free environment for the soon-to-be residents of Macedonia Plaza,” said the Rev. Richard McEachern, pastor of the church. “This development will not only bring affordable housing to the area, but it will help to protect the health of residents by limiting their exposure to the adverse effects of secondhand smoke.”
He and others gathered outside the construction site last week to discuss the initiative. The minister said he began to explore a smoke-free policy after meeting with Phil Konigsberg of Bay Terrace, who is also with the Queens Tobacco Control Coalition and a strong advocate for smoke-free environments.
Macedonia then partnered with the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership. According to Yvette Buckner, borough manager of the partnership, smoke-free housing is a growing trend. She noted that recently, Hilltop Village in Hollis, a 200-unit market-rate housing complex, went smoke-free. Smaller properties in Jackson Heights, Corona and Woodhaven have also added policies to prevent smoking in their buildings.
Buckner added that Flushing has one of the highest smoking rates in Queens and called Macedonia’s plan “a bold step” to reduce secondhand smoke exposure for Flushing residents.
“We hope Macedonia Plaza will inspire other buildings throughout Queens to go smoke-free and improve the health of our borough,” she said.
Buckner pointed out that smoking and secondhand smoke can worsen health conditions such as heart disease and respiratory problems, with exposure especially dangerous for children. She added that secondhand smoke is also documented to contain more than 4,000 chemicals and at least 250 of them are known to be harmful and more than 50 cause cancer.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who attended, noted that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the country and smoke-free housing reduces exposure to secondhand smoke and the chronic health issues that accompany it.
“Now residents don’t have to worry about harmful and dangerous smoke seeping through windows, walls or floorboards and can be confident that the air in their homes will be clean and healthy,” Stavisky added.
Macedonia Plaza is the first project to be built on the Municipal Parking Lot. Eventually, the rest of the property will be converted to a large mixed-use development.