Brooklyn Reps reintroduce bill to curb noisy helicopter flights
Issue is local, but requires federal legislation
In the face of continuing complaints about helicopter noise in waterfront areas, from Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan’s West Side, three U.S. representatives with Brooklyn districts have reintroduced the Improving Helicopter Safety Act, which expired at the end of the last Congressional session.
While the bill’s impact would be almost completely local, federal legislation is required because any air traffic is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The congressmembers are Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Borough Park-Sunset Park- Lower Manhattan-Upper West Side) who has been active in the helicopter issue since Day One; Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Sunset Park-Carroll Gardens-Cobble Hill-Brooklyn Heights- Williamsburg–Bushwick-Cypress Hills) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Greenpoint-Long Island City-Astoria-Upper East Side).
First introduced in 2019, the Improving Helicopter Safety Act would drastically reduce helicopter traffic, improve safety, and cut down on noise pollution by prohibiting non-essential helicopters flight in New York City airspace.
Complaints about helicopter noise increased by 130 percent between October 2019 and October 2020, according to Nadler’s office.
Previous articles in the Eagle reveal that as long ago as the 1990s, there were frequent complaints, especially from people in Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, about noise from helicopter flights, especially tourist helicopters. In 2016, the city limited the number of these flights.
However, some tour companies merely relocated the flights from Manhattan to a New Jersey terminal. Then, in 2019, Uber started operating shuttle helicopter flights between Lower Manhattan and JFK Airport, catering to business travelers.
An article in THE CITY in November 2020 quoted Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, as saying, “ You’ll be trying to take a stroll along Brooklyn Bridge Park or in that waterfront area, but there is one every couple of minutes.”
“If the FAA handed out recognition awards, 2019 would forever be referred to the ‘Year of the Chopper,’” Toba Potosky, president of the board of Cadman Towers, told the Eagle at that time. “It’s 24/7 and it has to stop. This is no joke. It’s a quality-of -life issue.”
The Brooklyn Heights Association also said at the time that 80 percent of the activity at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport is non-essential. Sightseeing and other flights cause a constant din on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, in Brooklyn Bridge Park and over Governors Island, the group said.
The fervent opposition unites residents of Brooklyn waterfront areas such as Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg and Greenpoint with Manhattan residents whose homes and offices are along the flight paths of the tourist helicopter.
“These flights generate an intolerable amount of noise that greatly reduces the quality of life for many New Yorkers, including in my district from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Red Hook, which are right along the constricted East River/Buttermilk Channel tourist helicopter flight path,” Velazquez said this week upon the reintroduction of the bill. The Buttermilk Channel separates Brooklyn from Governors Island.
“The swarm of nonessential helicopters that fill New York’s airspace doesn’t just produce noxious noise and environmental pollution—they put New Yorkers lives in danger. With 30 fatal helicopter crashes since 1982 resulting in 25 fatalities, it’s clear that New York’s crowded skies are placing both those in the air and on the ground at risk,” said Nadler.
A related bill, the “Safe and Quiet Skies Act,” introduced by Nadler in January, would mandate strict regulation of commercial air tour operations to address defense risks and community disruption, including no overflights of defense, parks, cemeteries, and other sensitive installations and minimum altitude maximum noise limits on all flights.
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