Downtown Express: Pols Seek Ban to Curb Copter Noise

Daniel L. Squadron

June 17, 2011


Residents of some choice real estate in Manhattan and Brooklyn are beside themselves. They can’t open their windows because of non-stop helicopter noise and fuel odors from the choppers taking off and landing at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on Pier 6 near the intersection of Whitehall and South Streets. The noise is also an assault on many neighborhoods bordering the East River and the Hudson River, with tourism helicopters accounting for much of the problem.

On June 2, in a letter to Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, owner of the heliport, 10 politicians called for a total ban on all tourist helicopter flights at the Downtown heliport.

“This request follows over a decade of effort by elected officials and community members to regulate the small on-demand aircraft/helicopter industry, which has virtually no oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) or other governmental authority,” states the letter.

Last year, in response to complaints, the E.D.C. eliminated tourism helicopter flights of seven minutes and under, restricted flight altitudes to 1,500 feet and above and required pilots to fly over water, with penalties of $1,000 per infraction. “Unfortunately, these attempts at self-regulation have not yielded sufficient improvement to our constituents’ quality of life,” states the letter, “nor have they addressed the clear safety hazards that are evident in New York’s heavily congested airspace.”

“A solution that doesn’t solve the problem is no solution at all,” said New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, and who was among those who signed the letter to Pinsky. “We’ve worked for a year to solve the problem. For a year after the tourist helicopters left the West Side, we worked closely with the industry and with the City, and they worked closely with us, which I really appreciated. The problem, though, is that you have too great a density of helicopters in too small an area.”

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