Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and James Vacca (D-Bronx) introduced the Social Host Law on May 31, which would make it illegal for any adult who owns, rents or otherwise controls a private home to permit underage drinking.
“This legislation will hold adults accountable for allowing minors to drink in their home,” said Vacca, who added community groups say underage drinking is a problem in his district.
“Most parents realize that adults should not provide alcohol to other people’s kids,” Vallone said. “While we can’t legislate against bad parenting, we can make sure these irresponsible parents don’t hurt other people’s kids.”
State laws allow parents to serve their own children alcohol for religious and educational purposes. Vallone says the bill doesn’t take aim at parents who allow a glass of wine at dinner, but instead at those who allow large, alcohol-fueled parties.
Vallone introduced the bill last year to the council without much luck. He said underage house parties arn’t a major issue on the City Council’s radar right now, but hopes recent incidents and Vacca’s help will change the council’s priority.
Last month, two Breezy Point parents allegedly hosted a party that sent two high schoolers to the hospital. Each adult was charged with 10 counts of endangering a child under 17.
Under the Social Host Law, prosecutors would need to prove that the adult provided alcohol, which Vallone says is easier than showing that he or she endangered a minor.
“Big house parties haven’t been a problem in the city. It’s more of a rural phenomenon,” Vallone said. “But the problem with legislating is that if you react to an event then they claim you are too late, and if you go before they think it’s not an issue.”
Nassau County and 30 states, other than New York have social host laws.
Kathy Carlson, Grover Cleveland High School’s parent association president, said she knows it is a problem in New Jersey, but hadn’t heard about house parties in her Ridgewood neighborhood.
“MADD supports social host laws because underage drinking kills 6,000 people each year,” a Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokeswoman Anna Duerr said.
If passed, the new law would classify the crime as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, or a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.