Written by Wendy Kreitzman Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00
As the Village of Great Neck introduces legislation calling for an eight-month moratorium on processing and issuing permits for on-site smoking businesses within the village, the landlord and tenant of the recently approved hookah lounge at 431-435 Middle Neck Road requested a modification to its conditional use permit. The village has cited health concerns regarding non-tobacco products and the hookah lounge landlord and tenant have responded to those concerns, asking to modify their conditional use permit by eliminating outdoor smoking.
This summer the village had approved the hookah lounge permit, which included indoor and outdoor smoking of non-tobacco products. While residents raised strong health-related concerns, village counsel explained that the lounge was permitted by village law as it fell within the village’s definition of a restaurant. In addition, while tobacco products are covered by the New York State Clean Air Act, smoking non-tobacco products such as the herbal products reportedly used by hookah smokers are not precluded. However, research from sources such as the Mayo Clinic state that “hookah smoking is not safer than cigarette smoking.” The World Health Organization has put forth similar information. Health concerns focus on both the smoking and the second hand smoke and many studies link this non-tobacco smoking with lung cancer.
Mayor Ralph Kreitzman and the board of trustees deemed it was time take a break from approving anymore such permits while they studied the ramifications. The moratorium was introduced at the village’s Oct. 15 board of trustees meeting and there will be a public hearing at the Nov. 19 meeting.
The moratorium applies to on-site smoking activities that include the sale or rental of smoking-related products for use and/or consumption on the premises of a business, and/or allowing or facilitating smoking activities on the premises of a business.
As the bill was introduced, several residents, including ones from the near-by 1 Wooley’s Lane apartment building, spoke up, still complaining of the health hazards but failing to recognize why the village had to approve the permit (legally considered a restaurant under village code and with no state law prohibiting such smoking). The mayor and village counsel Steve Limmer explained that while residents were free to speak, it would be necessary for them to speak up at the public hearing and have their comments on the formal record. Also, comments will be accepted during the moratorium and when final legislation, if any, is proposed. There would again be public hearings.
At this point, the village did amend the new hookah lounge’s conditional use permit to preclude outside smoking. In the interim, the proposed moratorium is required to be sent to the Nassau County Planning Commission,. The commission may recommend approval of the moratorium, recommend it be turned down, simply comment or leave it to “local determination.” Should the commission turn down the moratorium, the village board has the right to over-turn this decision with a majority plus one vote. Should the commission turn down the moratorium, the village board still ahs the right to approve it with a majority plus one vote.