Residents of one building in Bed-Stuy have had it with the smoke wafting through their home – they logged 22% of Brooklyn’s residential smoking complaints over the past year, according to an analysis by apartment search engine and data aggregator Localize.city.
The residents of 270 Pulaski Street made 123 complaints to 311 regarding smoking between August 2018 and August 2019, according to the report, representing 7% of all the smoking complaints made throughout the city. Brooklyn saw the most complaints of any borough, with 557 complaints across 172 buildings; New Yorkers logged more than 1,800 complaints citywide.
The City Council passed and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law in 2017 requiring all residential apartment buildings to write and post a smoking policy for inhabitants, as well as include it in leases or purchase agreements; it went into effect last year. Despite that, the law didn’t create a citywide indoor smoking policy, and individual buildings’ smoking policies do not have to ban it indoors.
The policy at 270 Pulaski bans smoking in common areas indoors, but not in residences.
Damaris, a 28-year-old lifelong resident of the building who did not provide her last name, said that smoking in the building is a rampant problem and that she has complained to 311 multiple times to no avail.
“I feel like every time I make a complaint, it’s not resolved,” Damaris said. She said that smoking is rampant in the building’s staircases and hallways.
Another lifelong resident, 21-year-old Kimberly Miller, said that the issue persisted in staircases despite the presence of security cameras.
“It’s in the staircase all the time,” Miller said. “The supers don’t care, they don’t do nothing.”
And according to 39-year-old lifelong resident Samuel Quinones, it’s not just cigarette smoke that is a constant nuisance in the building. “Everybody smokes weed in this building,” he said, noting that it’s an issue in the stairways as well as directly in front of and behind the building.
“It’s a little stressful, because there’s a lot of old people here,” Quinones said.
The building, also known as CABS Housing after the original developer Consumer Action Program of Bedford-Stuyvesant, contains six stories and 72 affordable units and was built in 1975. Currently managed by the St. Nicks Alliance, a nonprofit community development corporation based in Williamsburg, it underwent a renovation in 2011, including $6.7 million in improvements.
Frank Lang, the director of housing at St. Nicks Alliance told Bklyner that the building’s high rate of smoking complaints was news to him when he saw the report. St. Nicks Alliance didn’t have data on how many people had actually made complaints, or what kinds of complaints were actually being made, he said.
“We find that it’s a very serious situation when residents are disturbed by cigarette smoking,” Lang said. “And we are going to look into it and see what we can do to address the situation. We have to find out what the situation is and then we can look into whether there is an amicable solution.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they could not identify the number of unique complainants because many complaints were submitted anonymously, but that the number has consistently been high for at least the past three years.
According to the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation’s 2018 Annual Report, 16.5% of all fires citywide in 2018 were caused by cigarette or cigar smoking. That year, 733 of the city’s 4,439 fires were the result of smoking. Over 20% of 2018’s fire fatalities were in fires caused by smoking, although smoking-related fires were responsible for only 6.6% of fire injuries.