New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



How to Make Your Building Smoke-Free

The Challenge

The problem at a 40-unit co-op on the Upper West Side was that a lot of shareholders were complaining about the smell of cigarette smoke in the building. Smoke was coming into their apartments, it could be smelled in the hallways, and as you entered the building, you could see cigarette butts were on the front sidewalk and in the backyard.

The Solution

The board talked for many years about what to do. We sent letters; we encouraged the smokers to understand what they were doing with the smoke and the health risks to their neighbors. Little by little, we heard about other co-ops going non-smoking, and our goal was to be a non-smoking building. It was a challenge, because it was a bylaws change and a proprietary lease change, so we needed a supermajority of shareholders to approve it. Ultimately, the way we drafted the bylaws change was to grandfather in the current smokers for a period of two years. You could sell your apartment or, for your own health, try to quit. The amendment passed the first time it was proposed.

The Lesson

By providing people with the pertinent information, more people now understand the health benefits of living in a smoke-free building. Families are more likely to want to be in a non-smoking building.

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