Community Board 7 on Monday dealt with two hot health topics: smoking in the workplace and obesity in children.
As the City Council prepares to discuss the Smokefree Workplace Act of 2002, a measure proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CB 7 in Flushing weighed in on the issue to help council members in their decision-making.
The board voted 24 to 12 to support the bill, with the no voters saying the bill was too restrictive of the rights of business owners and smokers.
Today, children are overweight and that fact is leading to higher numbers of juvenile diabetes and a host of health problems not usually seen in children.
Given that fact, board members considered a proposal that would send these concerns to the city’s Departments of Health and Education. But, a majority of board members felt they were stepping into an area where they shouldn’t be involved.
By a vote of 17 to 19, they voted against a resolution that urges school playgrounds to remain open after school and that good eating habits be taught to children.
Some board members felt that parents were neglecting their duties in supervising their children’s eating regimens and that the proposal was somewhat redundant in that schools are already instructing children to eat right and exercise.
Others said children are using playgrounds not to exercise, but to hang out and smoke. The open playgrounds, they said, do no good without adult supervision.
A small contingent of board members also felt that these topics were beyond the scope of community boards, that they should be dealing with variances and renaming of streets, among other duties, rather than entering an area beyond its control.
Board Chairman Eugene Kelty said he forwarded the topics to the board’s Health Committee for discussion because there were valid concerns raised by specific board members.
Ironically, Kelty wound up voting against both measures. On the smoking issue, the board chairman, who is a captain in the Fire Department, said the total ban on smoking from public places took away the choice of restaurateurs to provide adequate ventilation in their businesses.
Kelty also saw a nightmare scenario of enforcement, where city agents would be forced to police bars and restaurants, issuing tickets for smoking when there are other problems that should be given priority.
On the obesity question, Kelty said “parents needed to step up,” adding that the measure “went too far” in recommending that schools stay open to allow play areas for children who need exercise.
Prior to the vote on the smoking ban, Nancy Miller, assistant commissioner for the tobacco control program for the Department of Consumer Affairs, discussed the health risks from smoking as well as the risks of secondhand smoke.
The attempt by the Bloomberg administration to ban smoking in public places is designed to protect the health of workers subjected to smoky work environments.
Councilman John Liu, a smoking ban supporter, also addressed the board, talking about a looming transit strike. Liu, chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee, said a transit strike would be a “catastrophe” for the city.
He has urged Governor George Pataki to step in to personally move the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which he heads, toward a settlement. Liu said the sides in the labor dispute are currently far apart in coming to a resolution.
In other board business, it approved the renaming of three streets after firefighters who died during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Those streets include: 22nd Avenue between 149th and 150th Streets to be also named for Firefighter Thomas A. Casoria; 159th Street between 29th and 32nd Avenues to be also rededicted to Firefighter Timothy M.Welty; and 8th Avenue between 147th and 149th Streets to be named for Firefighter Michael Carlo.
Adele Welty, the mother of Timothy Welty, said her son grew up in Flushing and played in Bowne Park, becoming a suburban athlete and family man. “He was a hero not for the way he died, but for the way he lived,” she said, before dissolving in tears.
Board members also approved a variance for renovations to a Hess Gas Station at 18-10 Utopia Parkway with some reservations. The owner had asked that the hours of operation be extended to 24 hours seven days a week.
However, board members wanted the hours to remain as they are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week for repairs and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. for gas. They also had a problem with a chain-link fence that separates the gas station from residences. Neighbors had complained that lights and noise from the station were bothering them.
Attorney Hyram Rothkrug said the owner would put wooden slats in the fence to cut off light to the homeowners, adding that building a wall between the properties was cost prohibitive. The matter will go to the Board of Standards and Appeals for disposition.