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.
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.