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Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Thu Dec 26, 2013.

Business groups go against e-cigarette bill in City Council

Nine business organizations including the Queens Chamber of Commerce wrote the City Council on Tuesday in opposition to a measure that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in parks, bars, restaurants and other indoor locations, just like actual tobacco products.

The bill is before the Health Committee, and proponents want it passed quickly so Mayor Bloomberg can sign it before he leaves office.

E-cigarettes contain nicotene but not tobacco and produce a vapor instead of smoke. Proponents and users, referred to as “vapers,” say they are safer than tobacco and help smokers quit, while opponents say they can lure more people, especially youth, into actual smoking.

Among e-cigarettes’ primary backers in the city is Spike Babiain, president of the National Vapers Club and co-owner of VapeNY, a Forest Hills store that sells them. Babiain said in a Dec. 15 Crain’s New York Business profile that pushing e-cig users outdoors with traditional cigarette smokers would make them more likely to switch to real tobacco.

The merchant groups that wrote the Council argue that letting users vape indoors is good for business and for the neighbors of establishments such as bars, who would rather not see more people congregate on the sidewalk.

Cops launch ticket blitz against reckless drivers

Police on Tuesday announced that last week they issued thousands of tickets citywide for moving violations and double-parking, and arrested 226 people for driving illegally, in an operation targeting streets near shopping centers and other areas with many pedestrians. The blitz ran from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 9 to 13.

In Queens, cops cited 705 people for moving violations and 637 for double-parking, while arresting 70 for driving with a suspended license, according to the NYPD.

The Police Department has come under increasing criticism from groups seeking to reduce driving in the city, such as Transportation Alternatives and StreetsBlog.org, for allegedly not enforcing traffic laws aggressively enough. The activists point to the fact that there are now fewer people murdered in the city with firearms than killed in traffic accidents as proof police must do more.

The NYPD called the blitz part of its effort “to reduce traffic infractions and conditions that cause death and injury to pedestrians.”

City will try recycling Styrofoam before ban

New York will test out recycling polystyrene foam, commonly called Styrofoam, under amendments to a City Council bill that initially would have banned the material. The measure could be voted on today, Dec. 19.

The new version of the bill directs the sanitation commissioner to test recycling and determine if it can be done safely, profitably and without damage to the environment. It is supported by Mayor Bloomberg and a key maker of Styrofoam, Dart Container, which said the city can make $4 million a year by recycling the material. Backers of the proposed ban had said it would save the city money by reducing the amount of garbage that needs to be disposed of and protect the environment.

Speaker battle is hot

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and most of the city’s five Democratic county leaders are on opposite sides in choosing the next City Council speaker, media reports said this week. The leaders, including the Queens chairman, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), reportedly favor Councilman Dan Garodnick, while de Blasio is said to back Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. Both are from Manhattan.

STAR tax cut deadline

The state is reminding homeowners that they must apply for the Basic School Tax Relief exemption using a new online system by Dec. 31. Applicants should visit tax.ny.gov to apply, and anyone with questions should call (518) 457-2036. The new rule does not apply to seniors receiving Enhanced STAR breaks.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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