People who plan on drinking alcohol near school grounds may want to seriously reconsider.
Currently, the city imposes a standard penalty of $25 and up to five days in jail for anyone who violates the city’s “open container” law.
Councilmen Fernando Cabrera and Jimmy Vacca announced on Monday, May 16 the “Alcohol-Free School Zone” Act, which would impose steeper fines for public consumption of alcohol on or near city schools.
Joined by members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the councilmen spoke outside of P.S. 310 on 260 W. Kingsbridge Road about the new legislation, which will increase the penalty to $100 and up to 10 days in jail if nabbed within 100 feet of a school entrance.
“If there is an environment that should have the protection of our city, it’s our schools,” Councilman Cabrera said. “We consider our schools drug-free zones for controlled substances and we think it’s time that alcohol be considered just as dangerous. Drinking in public is wrong. Drinking in public near a school is doubly wrong. With this bill, the punishment will finally fit the crime.”
The State Liquor Authority already prohibits the sale of alcohol within 200 feet of a school. However, both councilmen felt that school grounds, especially near parks, have become common places for public consumption of alcohol.
According to Councilman Vacca, he has heard of many instances of parents complaining that while walking their children to school in the morning, they often see broken beer bottles and empty cans laying near school property.
“The penalties right now are too minimal for people who think they can consume alcohol near schools,” Vacca said. “We very much want to send a message to those who hang out at our schools and leave empty alcohol containers behind, giving our children and parents an impression that our schools are not a special place.”
Lorraine Ritter and Nancy Dawson, members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, believe that the councilmen are making strong efforts in putting an end to the consumption of alcohol on or around school property.
“It’s very important for our youth and our parents to realize the significance of this matter,” Ritter said. “We appreciate and support the time and effort that these councilmen have taken to do this. We are a very outspoken group at Mothers Against Drunk Driving and we recognize the importance of this legislation.”
The legislation, called Intro No. 538, has been assigned to the city council’s Committee on Public Safety and is currently awaiting a hearing.