New Jersey Legislature to hold hearing on bill that would ban NYC helicopters from using NJ heliportsRead Now
By Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein - NY Post
October 18, 2015 | 6:31am
A nonprofit fighting a City Council proposal to ban tourist helicopters is backed by a New Jersey family that has a monopoly on the city’s chopper business and skeletons in its closet.
Helicopters Matter is stacked with execs from companies controlled by the Trenk family, including Saker Aviation Services, which runs a lower Manhattan heliport, and tourist charter service Liberty Helicopters.
Jeffrey Trenk, a Saker co-founder with a stake in the company, is a felon and tax deadbeat. He pleaded guilty to bribing an FBI agent in 1996 and was sentenced to house arrest. He also pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license in 2011 in Arizona.
His younger brother Steve, who is involved in another family business, was sued by feds over his refusal to cooperate with an IRS investigation into “an abusive tax-avoidance scheme.”
Their father, Alvin, had thousands of dollars in tax liens over the years in New York, New Jersey and California. A subsidiary of FirstFlight, one of Saker’s companies, has an unpaid tax lien with New York for $1,471, state records show.
Helicopters Matter has mounted a campaign to keep flying, claiming helicopter tourism contributes more than $50 million in revenue to the city and employs hundreds of New Yorkers.
Some City Council members dispute that.
“I don’t buy the argument that they contribute to the economy at all,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, of the Upper West Side.
Rosenthal and Council Members Margaret Chin and Carlos Menchaca are pushing a ban on the flights. They say they are flooded with constituents’ complaints of helicopter noise. Helicopters Matter says a small fraction of the complaints are tied to choppers.
Recently renamed the Helicopter Jobs and Tourism Council, the advocacy group was incorporated last year in Arizona and is run by Ronald Ricciardi and Chris Vellios. Ricciardi is president of Saker. Vellios is the COO of Liberty Helicopters.
A rep for the group said its critics lacked facts. “Our opponents have predictably turned to mudslinging and conspiracy theories,” he said.
"James Capalino, one of the top lobbyists in New York City who enjoys a close relationship with de Blasio, gave him $10,000 on May 27. The following day, Capalino lobbied de Blasio directly on a plan to eliminate helicopter tours in Manhattan. Capalino represents the tourism industry; de Blasio has yet to take a position on the proposal." See article below.
The transactional mayor returns
By Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg 5:08 a.m. | Sep. 24, 2015 Politico New York
City Hall is open for business.
After the 12-year mayoralty of billionaire Mike Bloomberg, whose wealth afforded him level of insulation from campaign donors, a more transactional style of politics has taken hold through an organization Mayor Bill de Blasio set up to promote his policy agenda.
Since its inception on Dec. 12, 2013, the operation known as Campaign for One New York has accepted $3.87 million from dozens of real estate developers, unions and others who do business with City Hall. The setup allows the mayor to raise money outside the regulations of the city Campaign Finance Board.
The contributors to his group include individuals and firms seeking approvals for their projects, and they often donate through limited liability companies that obscure their identities.
In some cases, donors gave money right before or after getting a city-granted benefit, according to a POLITICO New York review of $1.71 million in individual contributions that poured in during the first six months of 2015.
At least 46 of 74 donors listed in the latest six-month filing — 62 percent of them — either had business or labor contracts with City Hall or were trying to secure approval for a project when they contributed, public records show.
On the other hand, some of the largest sums of cash came from donors who have long supported de Blasio’s policies and have no business interactions with City Hall, such as liberal billionaire George Soros, who donated $250,000 through his Fund for Policy Reform Inc.
The campaign account stands in contrast to de Blasio’s previous crusade against unlimited donations to political action committees — a priority during his early years as the city’s public advocate.
A spokesman for the campaign argued that de Blasio had opposed secret contributions in elections; Campaign for One New York, while directly helping a single candidate, is not spending money on an election and voluntarily discloses its donors to reporters.
Joseph Dussich, the CEO of JAD Corporation of America, a Queens-based maintenance company, had long tried to market mint-scented, rodent-repellent trash bags he invented.
After donating $100,000 to Campaign for One New York, the city has begun doing business with him.
Dussich gave the organization $50,000 on Dec. 10, 2014 and another $50,000 on Feb. 3, 2015, according to filings voluntarily provided by the group. That is 20 times more than the $4,950 an individual can give a mayoral candidate in a single election cycle, per Campaign Finance Board rules. Dussich has been promoting his anti-rat product since at least 2007, when he described the idea to New York Magazine.
One month after his latest donation, the city parks department spent $15,000 on his garbage bags, according to records filed with the city comptroller.
While just a fraction of his overall donation, the deal was a boon for the entrepreneur who lamented in 2013 that he “couldn’t get to first base” with the parks department, which had yet to consider buying his trash bags. At that time, he was raising money for de Blasio’s Republican challenger, Joe Lhota.
Dussich did not respond to a call for comment.
Several months later, Andrew Nussbaum, the head of nonprofit group Asphalt Green, which opposed the planned site of an Upper East Side waste transfer station access ramp, contributed $10,000.
The group had been protesting the ramp location, as well as blasting it on social media, for more than one year. Six weeks after Nussbaum's donation, de Blasio agreed to move the ramp.
Nussbaum did not respond to a call for comment.
In March, District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union, donated $20,000 to the campaign. Around that time, the union’s leadership was successfully negotiating raises for its lowest-paid members with the city Office of Labor Relations.
“DC 37’s support for the Campaign for One New York’s efforts to draw attention and find solutions to the city’s affordable housing crisis is based solely on merit," DC 37 executive director Henry Garrido said in a statement to POLITICO New York.
"Like hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of their fellow New Yorkers, our members struggle to pay the exorbitant housing costs that now endanger the working- and middle-class of our city. We will continue to do all that we can to support efforts that ease this burden and increase accessibility to affordable housing.”
Dan Levitan, a spokesman for the group, said the donors are simply backers of de Blasio's policies.
"The Campaign for One New York is supported by individuals, foundations and organizations committed to New York City's progressive agenda," Levitan said. "As part of our commitment to transparency, we voluntarily disclose all of our fundraising and spending."
Half the donations this year came from real estate companies, many of whom contributed as they were engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to persuade de Blasio to protect an existing development tax break known as 421-a. A flurry of builders donated during a fundraiser de Blasio hosted on April 21.
In early May, the mayor announced a plan for 421-a that was met with broad approval from the real estate industry. He agreed to extend the life of the tax break in exchange for mandating more affordable housing from builders who receive it.
The deal was announced with the support of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, to which many of these donors belong, before the state Legislature was briefed on it.
The mayor declined to require that builders pay construction workers a prevailing wage for 421-a projects, again putting him on the side of developers and against trade unions, who ultimately won support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The final framework for 421-a must now be decided by REBNY and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
Among the real estate donors were Two Trees Management, which gave $100,000 through an LLC, Brookfield Financial Property L.P., which donated $50,000, Douglaston Development, which contributed $25,000, and Alma Realty Corp., which gave $5,000. Alma won approval in 2014 to rezone a site in Astoria for a mixed-use project.
In June, architect Ariel Aufgang, who donated $2,500 to the campaign in late April 2015, said the mayor’s 421-a plan boosted his business.
Following the announcement in May, the city Department of Buildings introduced evening hours for architects to meet with plan examiners to speed up projects before the existing tax break would expire in June, and while its renewal awaited approval in Albany.
Aufgang said he’d gotten the city’s approval for more than 930 new apartments, after meeting repeatedly with city officials.
“I was able to go every Thursday night, three weeks in a row,” Aufgang told the Wall Street Journal.
Levitan argued the mayor's 421-a plan was not a gift to developers.
"During this reporting period, Mayor de Blasio negotiated major reforms to the 421-a program that will end giveaways to developers and require them to build more affordable housing for New Yorkers," he said.
Last year, Campaign for One New York received donations from several yellow taxi medallion companies with which de Blasio has frequently sided in regulatory battles.
He once again took their side this summer by trying to temporarily cap the growth of car-hail company Uber.
Before the heated fight, Uber’s supporters tried in vain to curry favor with the mayor by holding their own fundraiser for him in San Francisco in May.
Other donors are still hoping for something from the mayor.
Wendy Neu and Stephen Nislick, two individuals behind a longstanding effort to ban horse carriages in Central Park, each gave $50,000 on March 2.
Together they met with the mayor in February and June this year, according to his voluntary disclosure of meetings with lobbyists.
De Blasio has yet to make good on his campaign promise to abolish the industry, but it’s not for lack of trying. In a recent radio interview, he blamed the delay on the City Council.
Alexander Levin, a Brooklyn developer in the midst of seeking approval for a zoning variance from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, gave $50,000 in three separate donations between January and June. Levin has previously contributed to Campaign for One New York.
The change he’s looking for would allow him to expand a retail property he owns in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood in Brooklyn.
James Capalino, one of the top lobbyists in New York City who enjoys a close relationship with de Blasio, gave him $10,000 on May 27. The following day, Capalino lobbied de Blasio directly on a plan to eliminate helicopter tours in Manhattan. Capalino represents the tourism industry; de Blasio has yet to take a position on the proposal.
Capalino also represents several donors who gave to the Campaign for One New York, including Broadway Stages’ Gina Argento, a prolific Democratic donor, and JDS Construction Group, which is building a mega-tower in Midtown Manhattan. JDS has locked horns with construction workers for declining to use union labor on his projects.
Capalino represented Asphalt Green in 2014 and lobbies on behalf of scores of developers and cultural institutions.
An official with Capalino’s firm declined to comment.
Establishing a fund to promote his agenda and accepting unlimited monetary contributions puts de Blasio somewhat at odds with the campaign finance reform effort he pursued five years ago. As public advocate, de Blasio formed the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, intended to be a national effort to restrict unlimited corporate donations in political elections after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United decision allowed such contributions.
In an op-ed published in The Nation that year, de Blasio railed against corporate political spending.
“ I have been campaigning against corporate influence in our elections, demanding that individual corporations pledge to not spend money in politics,” de Blasio wrote.
He boasted that the campaign “scored a major victory” by convincing Goldman Sachs to “amend its political contribution policy and not take advantage of the opening created by Citizens United to spend corporate money directly in elections.”
“ The importance of this campaign cannot be overstated. Corporations and other political organizations have already begun to take advantage of Citizens United,” he wrote.
It wasn’t the first time de Blasio supported measures to limit the influence of corporate and business interests in political campaigns.
As a city councilman in 2007, he voted to change the city’s campaign finance law to reduce the amount of money an individual or corporation with business before the city could give to a citywide candidate to $400. That reform drastically reduced the number of donations from donors who had business with the city, the Campaign Finance Board wrote in a report published in 2009.
Donations from entities doing business with the city dropped from 22 percent of total funds raised in the 2005 election cycle to less than 4 percent in 2009, according to the report.
The mayor also signed into law last year a measure requiring independent expenditure entities to list their top three donors and the name of someone in charge of the operation, such as a CEO, on campaign literature mailed to voters. The information also has to be presented on advertisements.
De Blasio is contradicting himself, a prominent New York-based government watchdog said.
“The mayor should not be collecting large donations for a shadow government entity. And yes, it is always much more uncomfortable when someone who has decried the use of dark money in politics then turns around and engages in the same conduct,” said Susan Lerner, head of Common Cause New York. “I don’t see any justification for this.”
Lerner said de Blasio should use “all of the city’s substantial communication modalities to explain and defend the government’s programs” rather than “going to individuals and entities who have large amounts of business before the city to explain and defend his programs.”
“It undercuts the city’s campaign finance system in a bold and unacceptable way that sets a very bad precedent,” she added.
De Blasio has distinguished the Campaign For One New York from an election account.
The two are “very different realities,” he told reporters last year.
“The Campaign Finance Board by definition relates to candidate campaigns — to individual candidacies. And as you know, we have the most advanced campaign finance laws in the country — the most rigid,” he added. “And I have been very happy to participate under those for the last 12 years, 13 years, and I think they’re exactly the right laws. But when you’re talking about an issue-oriented organization, it’s a different approach.”
He also said the disclosures for the campaign “goes beyond the legal requirements.”
“You can ask any question you want, but I do know to achieve the agenda we’re talking about, it’s important to get support from all quarters,” he added. “And that support is important in terms of actually getting things done for people that we came here to do.”
Edgewater supports bill prohibiting tourist helicopters from landing in NJ
September 18, 2015
By Svetlana Shkolnikova STAFF WRITER | Edgewater View
EDGEWATER — Prompted by residents’ concerns about noise pollution, the Edgewater council on Sept. 14 threw its support behind a state bill that would prohibit sightseeing helicopters from landing and taking off in New Jersey.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Nicholas Sacco, who is the mayor of North Bergen, and others, seeks to curb overhead noise from tourist helicopters flying along the Hudson River by banning them from operating at state-licensed aviation facilities.
"Residents want these tourist helicopters grounded and they deserve relief from the incessant noise and pounding headaches," said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in a statement supporting the legislation in February. "The threat to public safety is very real and very troublesome."
Studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council and others have linked helicopter noise to developmental disabilities in children, including impaired memory and reading comprehension, as well as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.
"These are not just annoyances, these are serious medical issues," said an Edgewater resident in an appeal to the council last month.
Residents say the helicopter noise begins between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and continues until dark.
During the peak season of April through October, an average of 185 tourist flights traverse the skies above the New York City skyline per day. More than 4,000 helicopter flights arrived and departed from the Teterboro airport last year, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and more than 30,000 tour helicopters took flight from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport where most sightseeing companies operate.
Edgewater last took a stand on the issue in Oct. 2014, when the council adopted a resolution supporting the New Jersey Senate’s plea to the Federal Aviation Administration to stop tourist helicopters from flying over the Hudson River.
"We are definitely in support of this," said Councilman Michael Henwood of the new proposed law, which would not apply to military, government or emergency medical flights.
The helicopter industry reaches out to its members to raise money for the army of lawyers, lobbyists and PR executives it has hired to combat ongoing anti-helicopter initiatives in New York, New Jersey and on Long Island: “The battle will continue to be expensive. To more equitably help at least partially fund the ongoing efforts involving lobbyists, lawyers, consultants, Public and Community Relations experts and others...”
Letter to the Editor: Give Peace (and Quiet) A Chance Posted on August 10, 2015 by Editor
August 10, 2015- Letter by John Dellaportas
Some 100,000 times per year, tourist helicopters buzz Battery Park City. These flights run all day, every day, including weekends and holidays. The noise is nonstop; it is the soundtrack to our lives. For a few hundred bucks a ride, tourists get to blast our parks and promenades with a decibel-busting drone that would be illegal in any other part of the City. But these choppers exist nowhere else in the five boroughs. They are banned over land, and over the East River, and from the East or West Side Manhattan heliports. Those communities had the political pull to push the choppers out of their skies – and into ours.
Now, at long last, comes our turn. Our local City Councilperson, Margaret Chin, and two of her colleagues have introduced a bill to ban these tourist flights. Supporting the bill is Stop the Chop NYNJ (www.StoptheChopNYNJ.org), a local, 2500-member strong grassroots organization dedicated to stopping these egregious polluters. But despite the bill’s merit, the outcome is far from certain. The for-profit helicopter operators, who make tens of millions of dollars a year plying this tourist trade, have launched a high-priced lobbying campaign to convince the City Council that this is much ado about nothing. They have even created an organization to promote their cause, the laughingly named “Helicopters Matter.”
In their own, awful way, helicopters do matter. They erode our quality of life. They contaminate our environment with noise and toxic air emissions, pollution made all the worse by the FAA requirement that these choppers fly extra low to keep out of airplane flight paths. (A few years ago, one of them broadsided a passing plane in front of Chelsea Piers, killing nine.) Studies have shown that low-flying helicopter noise can slow brain development in young children. One neighbor has told me that the choppers regularly set off her hearing aids. Another, a returning war veteran, has told me that these flights trigger his PTSD. Local mothers have noted that the flights awaken their babies from daytime naps. One neighbor has aptly characterized the noise as akin to “a lawnmower in my living room.”
It was not always this way. When my wife and I first moved to this lovely community more than twenty years ago, it seemed like a Garden of Eden. Lush parks, open spaces, clean sidewalks – it was everything the rest of the City was not. Most of all, it was quiet. Following 9/11, however, when we returned home following that enormous tragedy, we noticed new, uninvited guests in our midst: low-flying helicopters. We first assumed them to be law enforcement. They were not. As we later came to learn, these were private helicopters, giving sightseeing tours of the still-smoldering disaster site, at a time before all of the bodies had even been recovered. Ghoulish “disaster tourism” had come to BPC.
In the ensuing decade and a half, the problem has metastasized. Downtown Manhattan Heliport on Wall Street – the source of all of these flights – is now the busiest heliport in all the world. As the flights have gotten more frequent, the helicopter operators have grown richer, and their political pull has increased. According to local news reports, the Mayor has already met with their lobbyist, even while he is refusing to meet with Stop the Chop.
Some say this is all just part of the hustle and bustle of city life, and we should either get over it or move away. That is narrow-minded. A truly diverse city should welcome different kinds of communities, some loud and exciting but others calm and contemplative. One of BPC’s appeals is that it is not in the thick of things. In exchange for its distance from many of the City’s cultural, culinary and other offerings, BPC promises its residents a distinct New York experience – a breezy, leafy, peaceful respite from the City at large.
For those who believe that this BPC has a value worth preserving, our moment is at hand. The days ahead will determine whether our voices will finally be heard over the din. Fortunately, there is a way for all of us to help. It costs nothing and takes just a few minutes. First, click this link (http://www.stopthechopnynj.org/how-you-can-help.html) and fill out the form, which will transmit a message of support to the entire City Council. Then, forward this link to your friends and neighbors, and ask them to do the same.
Of course, curing the tourist copter curse will not singlehandedly restore BPC to its Edenic state. Recent years have brought numerous other challenges, which the pending City Council bill will not address. But it is a first step; a chance to tell City Hall that we matter, more so than helicopters. In recent years, our community has made too many compromises, and suffered too many retreats. No more; the line must be drawn here. Let us clear the air of these parasites. If we can do that, then the sky, quite literally, will be our limit.
21-Year Resident of Rector Place
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.