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.
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.