Colleen Morgan looked at a rules list and came across the following: “Breastfeeding and diaper-changing shall be permitted in designated areas only.”
Morgan informed Hempstead officials that the rule—codified in §78-24: “Swimming Pool Regulations”—ran afoul of state law. New York’s provision reads, in part: “...a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”
Led by Councilman Dennis Dunne Sr., whose district includes Levittown, the town board voted unanimously on Sept. 4 to rescind the local provision.
“I wasn’t happy to hear [about] this antiquated code...and I took steps to correct that oversight,” Dunne told the audience on Sept. 4 before the vote. “I saw it on social media and I heard from women at the local pools...so, it affected quite a few people in the district.”
He added, “I’m totally in support of this item. We have to codify it. It’s extremely important that...we update our town code.”
Dunne praised the parks department personnel who took steps—even before the code was amended—to change the signs and the language of the handouts at the pools to make residents aware of their rights.
“Certainly, it does not preclude a mother who wants some privacy from finding a quiet area to nurse,” Dunne observed. “But it assures that mothers who want to breastfeed one child can watch the other children without any qualms.”
Supervisor Laura Gillen made note of Morgan’s discovery of what she called “an archaic provision,” adding that breastfeeding has been “encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatric Medicine as being in the best interest of babies. So we as a town board can all agree that we should allow mothers to breastfeed infants wherever they see fit.”
“What this resolution does is bring the town in compliance with the laws of the State of New York,” said Town Attorney Joseph Ra.
Councilman Bruce Blakeman observed, “The intent of this board is not to get between a mother and [her] child with respect to their discretion as to when to feed the child.”
He added, “I don’t think government should be involved. And I think all on the board agree with that. We have this archaic law that was written at a time, unfortunately, when attitudes were different.”
Felix Procacci of Franklin Square thought the town board should simplify things and rescind the local law entirely, “so that the state law would take over.”
“It’s easier, it’s a cleaner solution in my view,” Procacci said. “There is no ambiguity.”
Blakeman, addressing the town attorney, asked, “Mr. Ra, I think Mr. Procacci makes a good argument. Is there a reason why we just can’t rescind the law?”
Ra replied, “I think the intent of the town board is to make it clear that the old law that we had on the books is now repealed. It’s gone and that’s the position of the town board, to let mothers know that they can breast-feed at any location that they want to.”
Added Gillen, “And to make sure that no rule passed in the future would restrict a woman’s right going forward in the Town of Hempstead.”
Concluded Procacci, “I just think less laws are better.”
The board voted unanimously to amend the town code, and both Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney and Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby praised Dunne for his leadership in changing the law.
Signs of Vaping
Earlier this year, Dunne shepherded a law limiting future vaping establishments in the town’s unincorporated areas to light industrial and manufacturing zoning. Now he plans on introducing a law mandating that the e-cigarette smoking emporiums “shall post a conspicuous sign at all points of purchase” with a specific message: That vape products contain nicotine, and “nicotine is an addictive chemical,” along with the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning that “Vaping is hazardous to your health.”
A public hearing was held at the Sept. 4 board meeting.
Procacci expressed skepticism about enforcement, noting that in May, the town board passed a law adding vaping to the smoking ban at its more than 100 parks.
“I’ll tell you right now, [from] personal experience, nobody enforces it,” Procacci said, relating an incident at a local park where he spotted marijuana smokers and called law enforcement.
“All the police did was escort them out, there was no fines [levied],” Procacci related, going on to call the law “useless...just words on paper. Let’s save some trees and not print laws we’re not going to enforce.”
Dunne replied, “I’ve instructed the town attorney’s office to see if we can put fines on it...and to show how serious we are about vaping.”
He said he was concerned about the rise in vaping use among children.
“Something has to be done,” continued the councilman. “And we have to take the bulls by the horns and put a hefty fine on [violations of the ordinances]. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.”