Letter to the Editor: February 21
Helicopter Regulation over our Waterways
New York City is assessing its resources. We’re in a dire budget crisis and a pandemic that no one needs to be reminded of. Yesterday I submitted testimony in support of Intro 2026, Intro 2027, and Intro 2067 — a series of bills that seek to regulate privately chartered helicopters in our public space and waterways. This issue is part of a greater conversation posed in front of the Council: who gets priority access to our city’s resources? Last summer, I heard consistently from constituents and neighbors concerned about the excessive noise from helicopters hovering over Brooklyn. Between private charters and companies like Uber using public airspace for the ultra-wealthy to move around and the excessive use of NYPD helicopters to intimidate peaceful protestors, residents of downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights were constantly disturbed by the presence of low-flying helicopters. It is important that we address the noise, air pollution, and safety issues of commercial helicopter usage now.
Private charters and corporations should not be not entitled to free reign over our public space and waterways. Yet, over the last year, the issue has worsened, as companies are chartering commercial helicopter rides along our waterways. Complaints to 311 about helicopters increased 130 percent in 2020, particularly impacting Brooklyn’s waterfront communities with NYPD helicopter noise and environmentally harmful fuel use. Allowing helicopter usage at a time when we need to be combating climate change is irresponsible.
On Thursday, the De Blasio administration also said they were moving toward zero emission NYPD helicopters, a recognition of the environmental harm being caused. This is the wrong measure for progress. Rather than greenwashing the NYPD, we need to divest and reallocate funds — phasing out the use of police helicopters for patrol use altogether, which would save taxpayer dollars and provide relief from the harmful noise impacts New Yorkers faced during protests past year.
The bills being heard are positive steps forward to regulate the charter helicopter industry. Our waterways are public spaces and should not be a playground for the ultra-wealthy. I stand with the Stop the Chop coalition in also calling for the termination of heliport leases on New York City land, and am proud to support House Bill 4880, which would prohibit helicopter flights over municipalities over 8 million people, and is sponsored by Congressional Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerold Nadler, and Nydia Velazquez.
The conversation about helicopters in public airspace is part of a larger question for incoming Council Members. If we want to build a serious, ground-up recovery for our city, we have to consider every inch of our city and how to leverage it for public good over private interest.
— Elizabeth Adams
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