Council Members Carlos Menchaca, Helen Rosenthal and Margaret Chin write op-ed listing reasons why helicopter tours need to be banned in NYCRead Now
July 24, 2015
Ban tourist helicopters for a quieter city
Three City Council bills would alleviate the relentless clamor from above. By Carlos Menchaca, Helen Rosenthal and Margaret Chin
Incessant helicopter noise is nothing new to the people of our districts in southern Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and the Upper West Side.
For years, residents have experienced the relentless drone of helicopter flights—at home, walking on the street, and in our parks. Persistent and vocal elected officials, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, have gotten concessions from the helicopter tourism industry, most notably a victory in 2010 that prevented tourist helicopters from flying over Central Park, the Empire State Building and any land in Brooklyn.
While the agreement was a step in the right direction, it merely shifted helicopter flight routes. Tourist helicopters now fly up and down the Hudson River and around the bay, harassing residents and park users from Battery Park north to Inwood and west to Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park.
There were 33,378 tourist flights between April and October of 2013 alone, according to data from the Economic Development Corp. in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. That's about 91 flights a day or nine flights an hour during the operating hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Given that each flight includes a takeoff and landing, residents hear helicopter noise 18 times an hour as the helicopters loop around their route.
Our three offices have received thousands of complaints about helicopter noise in the last year and a half. We ask residents to file a 311 complaint so the city is aware of their concerns--even though our constituents have in many cases called 311 multiple times with no improvement. Indeed, tourist helicopter flights have only increased. Our residents often say they have given up on calling 311 about this issue.
The Federal Aviation Administration categorizes helicopters by how noisy they are, with Stage 1 being the loudest and Stage 3 the quietest. We have two bills before the New York City Council: One would ban Stage 1 and 2 tourist helicopters from New York City, which we have the purview to do on our own; the other would ban Stage 3 tourist helicopters, which requires approval from the U.S. secretary of transportation.
These bills, if passed, would not affect flights by police, fire and other emergency services, or news or charter helicopters. The legislation addresses the enormous growth of tourist helicopter flights that worsen the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers in our neighborhoods and our parks.
As New Yorkers, we welcome visitors to our city. But as the elected representatives of the people in our districts, we cannot stand by while our constituents suffer from unremitting tourist helicopter flights. The people have spoken, and they want fewer helicopters. With this important legislation, we are showing our constituents that we hear them loud and clear.
The authors are members of the New York City Council.
Large crowd turns out for press conference announcing two NY City Council bills that would ban helicopter sightseeing toursRead Now
NYC Council bills to ban sightseeing helicopters receive support at ‘Stop the Chop!’ rally Community groups and officials rallied on the steps of City Hall on Thursday in support of a City Council bill that would ban sightseeing helicopters.
By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle July 23, 2015
The incessant noise, pollution and disruption from sightseeing helicopters taking off from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on the East River – the only heliport in the city that still allows them -- has become intolerable, advocates said on Thursday.
Elected officials and representatives of community groups and schools rallied on the steps of City Hall in support of two City Council bills that would ban the noisy choppers.
The legislation would not affect emergency, media or private helicopters.
The once-a-minute takeoffs and landings, noisy flybys and hovering helicopters waiting for space on the landing pad have made it impossible to relax in the city’s sparkling new parks, to hold a normal conversation or to concentrate in school, speakers said.
The bills were introduced on Thursday by Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca (Red Hook), Helen K. Rosenthal (West Side) and Margaret S. Chin (Lower Manhattan, Governors Island).
“We are here to stop the noise that has been completely ruining the lives of so many New Yorkers,” Rosenthal said. “We tried so hard to regulate this industry, to minimal avail. The noise is out of control.
“We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration to pass this legislation,” she added.
Councilmember Chin said, “For many downtown residents, the noise has been horrible. There are helicopters flying right in front of people’s windows -- the fumes, the noise, it’s just impossible.”
“This is an issue we have been fighting in New York City for a long time,” state Sen. Liz Krueger said, crediting U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler for keeping the pressure on the issue.
“In 2010, we stopped the tourist helicopters from using the heliports in the east 30s and the west 30s. It was a real victory, but all it did was move the problem, even at a greater level, further downtown, and that’s completely unacceptable.”
She debunked the economic figures supplied by the helicopter industry that the chopper flights bring millions of dollars into New York City.
“There are other ways to see the beautiful city of New York. This isn’t the way to try to bring tourists in. Nobody feels we’re going to impact our economy if we do the right thing for the people who live here,” she said.
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill) pointed out that the only heliport allowing tourist flights is “right across from my district. Brooklyn Bridge Park is immediately in the path of every single one of these helicopters.”
Since all of the tourist helicopters have moved to lower Manhattan, “It has reached a crisis point,” Simon said. “It had disrupted people’s sleep. They feel overwhelmed by the fumes, and it is distracting their children. They cannot learn or practice their music lessons.”
Councilmember Steven Levin hears complaints from his constituents. Photo by Mary FrostCouncilmember Steven Levin said he hears complaints from his Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights constituents every day in the spring, summer and fall. “We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and yet we allow for this constant disturbance,” Levin said. “You can’t go to Brooklyn Bridge Park on a nice day and enjoy the scenery, relaxation -- the type of thing we built the park for -- because of the intense noise from this virtually unregulated industry.”
A staffer from state Sen. Daniel Squadron's office attended the rally. In a statement, Squadron said, "Helicopter noise is a quality of life issue across my district and the city. The constant impact in neighborhoods is simply not worth it."
Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School on Governors Island, said the noise made it almost impossible for the kids to learn.
“We’ve developed six career and education programs – all the way from aquaculture to scuba diving, vessel operations and marine biology. All of these require being outside and on the water,” he said. “So we’ve created this entire school to use New York’s harbor as our classroom and we can’t do it.”
Paul Richoff, the founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the country’s largest post-9/11 veterans group, said the choppers presented a security issue.
“As a former infantry officer, I’m extremely uncomfortable with civilian helicopters flying just hundreds of feet from Ground Zero. Thousands of people congregate there every day,” he said.
Shown above is Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, at podium. On the right is Councilmember Helen K. Rosenthal, one of the bill’s sponsors. Photo by Mary Frost Economic benefit?
Helicopter tour industry spokesperson Chapin Fay told the Brooklyn Eagle that an economic study from 2010 showed the sightseeing industry resulted in economic output of $33 million a year.
“Furthermore, the tourists that use our tours are typically foreigners, who spend more money once they’re in New York City,” he said, adding, “Almost 300 jobs of working class New Yorkers will be gone once this bill passes.”
Opponents say, however, that the economic figures are inflated.
The Brooklyn Heights Association backs the ban. Photo by Mary Frost “The numbers that are quoted are just believing everything EDC [Economic Development Corp.] claims,” said Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton. “They are including overnight hotels, restaurant meals, theater tickets -- all that gets glommed together in addition to whatever a helicopter tour costs, added to the small amount the company that leases the heliport pays -- $4 million. That’s nothing.”
The helicopter sightseeing industry got some support from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Wednesday.
“Seeing New York from the ground is wonderful, but being able to see it from the air is a rich tradition,” told the Brooklyn Eagle. “So we should make sure that in our regulations that we don’t stymie the industry of tourism.”
While the city should be receptive to adjusting the number of flights at night, “Hearing noise during the day is different than hearing noise late at night,” Adams said. “Part of living in a big city is you’re going to receive some type of noise during the day.”
Brooklyn Heights resident Roberto Gautier, who lives above the exit ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge, says he is fed up with years of noise bombardment.
Residents have been suffering ever since the summer of 2010, he said, when a waiver of the noise code was made to allow for after-hours construction on the Brooklyn Bridge.
“The helipad is another part of this noise mosaic,” he told the Eagle. He feels that helicopters should be retrofitted with noise-canceling blades.
“I’ve always felt it was a ridiculous motto – “The City That Never Sleeps” -- Gautier said.
City Council Members Working on Bill to Ban Tourist Helicopters in NYC
By Irene Plagianos | July 9, 2015, DNAinfo
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A proposed City Council bill calls for a complete "moratorium" on what many have called unbearably noisy tourist helicopter flights.
The legislation, which is still in draft form, would ban tourist trips in helicopters, the Daily News first reported.
Lower Manhattan residents and local elected officials have long complained about what they say is the constant noise from tourist helicopters whirring overhead. Tourist helicopter trips take off and land in only one spot in New York City: the Financial District's Pier 6, in the East River. There are currently five companies that operate from the city-owned heliport.
A spokesman for City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a longtime proponent of curtailing the helicopter tourism industry, said she is in favor of the ban.
"Our constituents have made it clear that the noise pollution from the helicopters is overwhelming and we're in support of a moratorium on the tourist flight," Chin spokesman Paul Leonard said.
There are more than 40,000 tourist flights a year in the city, and many city residents, especially in Lower Manhattan and across the river in Brooklyn, say the daily flights bring too much loud, disruptive noise.
A group called Stop the Chop, which formed a couple of years ago, and includes New Jersey residents, now has more than 2,000 members and has been working to petition elected officials to ban the helicopters, which they also say are especially loud for young children. They're also concerned about the flights' effect on air pollution.
Helicopter tour proponents say the industry employs more than 200 people and brings about $30 million a year to the city's economy.
“The helicopter tourism industry has always been great for New York," Brian Tolbert, manager of the Lower Manhattan heliport and spokesman for the pro-industry group Helicopter Matters, told the Daily News. "We follow all the rules and don’t cause any trouble."
In 2010, tourist helicopters were banned from flying over land, but that has not curtailed the noise, many say, including Community Board 1, which has long asked for a ban or limits on the helicopter tours.
"We get constant complaints from our residents about the dozens of helicopters that take off every day of the week," said Ro Sheffe, the co-chair of CB1's Financial District Committee. "It's an awful situation and we would be happy to see a ban on the flights."
Lower Manhattan resident Tricia Joyce said she and her family were "overwhelmed by the constant roar" of the helicopters when they took a recent trip to Governors Island.
"It was like a war zone with all that noise from the helicopters," Joyce said. "Every few minutes, there's another helicopter taking off. It's just terrible."
In addition to Chin, several other local officials, including state Sen. Daniel Sqaudron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler have also been actively working to curtail helicopter traffic.
These elected officials also recently voiced concerns about a private helicopter takeoff at Battery Park City's North Cove Marina, from a heliport aboard a mega yacht.
"Lower Manhattan is already inundated with helicopter traffic from the Downtown Heliport, and members of the community are rightly concerned about the impact of helicopters on their safety and quality of life," officials wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Battery Park City Authority. "We ask that the BPCA do everything in its power to prevent the use of the helicopters at North Cove Marina."
In a letter to the officials, a spokeswoman from Brookfield Place, which now operates the marina, said all boats would be informed that "any helicopters are strictly prohibited."
The Council ban under review would not curtail private helicopter use, though it was unclear whether it is currently illegal to fly off a boat docked at the marina.
Stop the Chop NYNJ is a local grassroots coalition of NY and NJ residents seeking to educate the public about the adverse effects of helicopters sightseeing tours on the environment and on the health and welfare of the two million people living underneath their Hudson River flight path.