CARS HOMES JOBS

Breathing easier in Schenectady public housing

New smoke-free rule is hardly gripe-free

Thursday, April 11, 2013
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Richard Homenick, executive director of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, speaks Thursday in the Golub Community Room at the Ten Eyck Apartment complex on Broadway in Schenectady at the official announcement that all senior developments are now tobacco-free.
Richard Homenick, executive director of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, speaks Thursday in the Golub Community Room at the Ten Eyck Apartment complex on Broadway in Schenectady at the official announcement that all senior developments are now tobacco-free.

— It’s been 10 days since Schenectady’s public housing for the elderly and disabled went smoke-free.

And while some residents have huddled miserably outside to smoke in the rain, others are thrilled to finally breathe in their own apartments.

“The smoke used to be really thick in the hallways,” said resident Paula Block, who described how the smoke would creep under her door into her apartment.

“I’m an asthmatic and it used to bother my asthma,” she said.

Now she can still smell smoke — some residents are still smoking indoors, she said — but the thick smoke is gone.

“The air is cleaner,” she said. “It’s easier to breathe.”

That doesn’t mean everyone’s happy.

Resident Terrance Sims attended a congratulatory press conference about the smoking ban Thursday just so he could make his objections public.

“Yesterday, it’s downpouring, thunder and lightning outside, and you have to go outside,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t mind not smoking in the hallway, but in my apartment, I don’t think I’m doing any harm.”

He plans to buy an electronic cigarette, which uses water vapor to release nicotine into his lungs without expelling smoke. That way, he can smoke in his apartment again.

Others are trying to quit.

Trish VanDeusen took a smoke-cessation class and managed to quit for 40 days. Then she lit up again, but now she’s trying to slowly reduce the number of cigarettes she smokes each day.

The ban has helped, she said.

“Not being able to smoke in the apartment has cut it way down,” she said. “Late at night, do I really want to go out there?”

She plans to quit again.

“Aside from the health and the way it makes you smell, there’s the cost,” she said. “I’m really determined.”

Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority Executive Director Richard Homenick said the board began to consider a ban when some residents asked for it.

One resident had served at Ground Zero and had developed a serious respiratory ailment. The smoke from nearby apartments aggravated her condition, Homenick said.

Other residents complained as well. Homenick said he also supported the ban because it would decrease the number of fires in the public housing buildings.

“Smoking is the number one cause of fire deaths,” he said.

A woman recently set her hair on fire while smoking outside the public housing headquarters. A worker ripped off her own sweatshirt and used it to extinguish the flames, but the woman is still recovering in a burn center, Homenick said.

The ban applies to Schonowee Village, Lincoln Heights and Ten Eyck Apartments. Smoking is banned in all apartments, common areas, and on the grounds, except in designated outdoor smoking areas.

 
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