After a mother's emotional plea, the Suffolk Legislature Tuesday voted to ban the sale of drop-side cribs, which have been blamed in scores of baby deaths and thousands of injuries. It is the first such restriction in the nation.
"It's a great day for Suffolk County, which is here to protect our littlest citizens," said sponsor Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), who wants it to "start the ball rolling" for Nassau, the state and Congress.
Later, Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said he will propose a similar county law before month's end and hopes for action in December. "I think the Suffolk momentum will help," he said.
Lawmakers acted shortly after Bellmore mother Susan Cirigliano pleaded for passage to prevent other parents from suffering. Her 6-month-old baby, Bobby, suffocated in 2004 when a crib-side detached and his head got stuck between the rail and mattress.
"We miss Bobby every day," said Cirigliano. "But what's most important is what Bobby misses . . . Bobby never had a chance to wear his first Halloween costume. He didn't get to sit on Santa's lap and he never blew out a birthday candle."
Cirigliano said she believed the crib was "one of the safest places" outside of "Mommy and Daddy's arms," but "the reality is Bobby's crib was not safe and our lives will never be the same."
The measure was approved unanimously with no debate after Horsley detailed that the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled more than 4.2 million faulty cribs between 2005 to 2008 and said the cribs caused 90 deaths between 2003 and 2005, making them the most dangerous child product on the market.
Michael Dwyer, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, said that new voluntary standards for cribs, including elimination of drop-side equipment, is scheduled to come up before the American Society of Testing and Materials Wednesday and compliance could come within six months. He added that proposals for new federal crib rules are expected in August.
He said a patchwork of local laws was "an ineffective way" to resolve the issue. "What will keep a parent from driving across town and purchasing a drop-side crib from a children's store in another . . . county?" he asked.
Horsley's measure bans any infant crib with three immovable sides and a fourth that moves up and down. The legislation does not affect drop-gate cribs in which the crib side remains stationary, but the top part of one side folds down outside the crib for easy access.
County Executive Steve Levy favors the measure but must hold a public hearing first. Spokesman Mark Smith said the hearing could come as early as Oct. 27.