Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights Association: NYC helicopter deal a ‘slap in the face’

Fails to eliminate tourist choppers

February 2, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Helicopter operators will be reducing the number of tourist flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, but the Brooklyn Heights Association says that’s not enough. Photo by Don Evans
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The city’s new agreement with helicopter operators that would reduce but not eliminate tourist flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH) is a “slap in the face to residents of Brooklyn Heights and of many other waterfront communities,” the Brooklyn Heights Association said on Tuesday.

The city said that the deal, which was announced Sunday, would reduce the number of flights from DMH by 50 percent – or 30,000 flights — and claims that the agreement would “significantly reduce the impact of tourism helicopters on New York City residents while simultaneously preserving an industry that brings in millions of tourism dollars each year.”

BHA says that’s a lot of baloney.

“While the city collects a pittance in rent from those who operate these flights, the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers is greatly diminished by the constant whine, chop and roar that destroy our right to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes and parks,” BHA said in statement.

“The ‘reduction’ in total flights championed by the Mayor is an illusion, since it would only bring the number of flights back to 2009 levels when protests first swelled from affected communities,” BHA added.

“The BHA also fervently objects to the secrecy behind the agreement, which excluded any consultation with the public,” BHA said. “We continue to call for City Council passage of the two bills that would ban outright these tourist flights.”

De Blasio: ‘Everyone gave a little’

Mayor Bill de Blasio, quoted in a release from The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Helicopter Tourism and Jobs Council (HTJC), said the deal will “significantly cut down on the number of helicopter tours near residential areas and major parks, while keeping this part of our tourism sector active and viable.”

“Everyone gave a little to get to this outcome, but the solution will mean a more livable city for everyone,” de Blasio said.

John Dellaportas, president of an advocacy group called Stop the Chop, thinks the helicopter industry came out way ahead in the deal, which he called a “PR ploy.”

“The sweetheart deal, which was negotiated in secret and without any community input, is totally unacceptable for addressing the air and noise pollution that the tourist helicopters cause,” Dellaportas said in a statement.

He added, “This so-called compromise actually entrenches the helicopter industry while doing nothing for New York City families, students, parkgoers and workers. We will continue to push for a full ban and expect the City Council to see through this PR ploy for what it is.”

In addition to flight cutbacks, operators have agreed to end all flights on Sundays and prohibit flights over Governors Island. If operators are determined to have violated the agreement, NYCEDC will have authority to mandate further reduction in operations.

According to information from the Federal Aviation Agency, the DMH in the year ending Sept. 2015 supported an average of 159 takeoffs and landings per day, with 68 percent of these tourist flights.

Two bills sponsored by Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca (Red Hook, Sunset Park), Helen Rosenthal (Upper West Side) and Margaret Chin (Lower Manhattan) last November sought to prohibit tourist helicopters altogether. Police, fire, news, and charter helicopters would be unaffected.

On Sunday, however, Menchaca, Rosenthal and Chin applauded the compromise agreement.

“Today’s announcement – a 50 percent reduction in tourist helicopter flights and no flights on Sundays — is a huge step forward in protecting the quality of life of thousands of New Yorkers, and offers our constituents some sense of immediate relief,” they said in a statement.

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