No-smoking rule near at MHA housing sites: Schenectady public units for elderly, disabled to go smoke-free in April

By Paul Nelson
October 3, 2012, Times Union

SCHENECTADY — Hundreds of elderly and disabled tenants at three downtown city housing authority apartment buildings now have added incentive to kick their smoking habit.

Starting in April, residents of the Schonowee Village, Lincoln Heights and Ten Eyck developments — which serve people ages 62 and older as well as people with disabilities — will no longer be allowed to light up inside their apartments or common areas at the high rises, according to Richard Homenick, executive director of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority.

“We’re trying to protect people, and that’s the bottom line,” said Homenick on Tuesday. “It’s having an effect on people’s lives who don’t smoke.”

Besides health and safety benefits to tenants and staff, Homenick said that it’s more expensive for the housing authority to clean out a apartment vacated by a smoker than a nonsmoker because of the lingering odor and discoloration to walls caused by nicotine.

While Homenick said the reaction to the ban, which takes effect in April 2013, has mostly been positive, he acknowledged there were some residents angered by the smoke-free policy.

“We feel confident that we’re not violating anybody’s rights or discriminating against them,” said Homenick, adding the housing authority plans to provide free programs on site in November and December through Seton Health Center to help tenants quit smoking.

For those who can’t, they will be allowed to light up on public sidewalks and the agency is looking into creating designated smoking areas at each of their locations.

The agency will review the ban before deciding if to expand it to the four other municipal housing complexes in Schenectady, said Homenick.

The smoking ban grew out of resident complaints about three years ago that they were being subjected to secondhand smoke at common areas and also when entered through open doors and seeped under them.

Homenick said he met with concerned tenants to discuss the problem before the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides the housing agency’s funding, recommended a prohibition on smoking. A survey by the housing authority showed that tenants overwhelmingly supported the idea, Homenick added.

Nationwide, 230 housing authorities in 27 states have smoke-free policies. In the Capital Region, Gloversville and Hoosick Falls are the only two included in the category.

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