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Federal government seeking to ban smoking in public housing causes stir among residents

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FORT GREENE, Brooklyn — The federal government wants to extinguish smoking inside public housing across the United States.

More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in public housing. The new regulation would apply to all of the New York City Housing Authority's developments.

But it's causing quite a stir among residents. Especially those who smoke.

"I'm 67 years old and I feel like if I want to smoke a cigarette, I want to smoke a cigarette in my house," one Walt Whitman Houses resident told PIX11.

This new proposal from the The Department of Housing and Urban Development would prohibit people from smoking inside their apartments, common areas and outside within 25 feet of public housing.

The goal is to reduce secondhand smoke, improve residents' health and save millions in repairs and preventable fires.

Mary Hudson, a lifelong smoker, actually liked the plan.

"That's good. That's good. That's better for me. Maybe I can quit," Hudson said.

In the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, smoke wafts through the lobby, hallways and even into non-smokers' homes.

"It's terrible because I have asthma and sometimes I smell it in my bedroom. Then I have to go in the living room," Ray Bilal said.

Naeema Muhammed has lived on the eighth floor for more than 10 years. Smoke always creeps in.

"When you smoke, the smoke actually comes up through those pipe openings," she said.

At the Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, Carlos Cherrez told PIX11 he's a law-abiding citizen so he will stop smoking inside. But he's not happy about it.

"I would kinda feel like that's a violation of my rights. This is my apartment. Me and grandfather pay rent here," Cherrez said.

This new Housing and Urban Development proposal called for a non-smoking clause to be written into leases — both new and renewed.

The New York City Housing Authority acknowledged the complex issue of enforcement, noting residents need to be involved in the process.

"It is no secret there is an environmental, quality of life, and health impact related to second-hand smoke. As we review HUD's proposed new rule, we want to ensure it puts residents first," NYCHA's chair and CEO Shola Olatoye said in a statement on Thursday.

The public has 60 days to comment on this plan. Once it is finalized, NYCHA has 18 months to put it in place.

Even if some tenants, like one Fort Greene resident PIX11 met, plan to fight it.

"Catch me if you can. Catch me if can," the Brooklyn tenant said.