Brooklyn Boro

Keep complaining to 311 about helicopter noise, says Stop the Chop

November 30, 2022 Mary Frost
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Since New York City changed its 311 online complaint form, some residents and organizations mistakenly believe that 311 won’t accept helicopter noise complaints, according to the nonprofit Stop the Chop NY/NJ, which is the central advocacy group fighting non-essential helicopter traffic.

This is not the case, Melissa Elstein, board chair and secretary of Stop the Chop told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“311 does accept helicopter complaints about helicopters from NYC heliports,” she said on Wednesday. However, “311 will not accept the sightseeing helicopter complaints for helicopters originating outside of NYC (those companies based in NJ or Westchester, for example).”

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“We have heard frustrations from our members generally dealing with 311 helicopter complaints as the complaints are closed without resolutions, and that some are not being accepted,” Elstein said. “They changed their online forms and it has been very confusing. It is clear that the true number of helicopter complaints to 311 would be even higher if the complaint process was less confusing.”

There are roughly 30,000 NYC-based sightseeing flights every year from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport alone, Elstein said.

Brooklyn’s waterfront communities, including Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and DUMBO, have been complaining about the incessant noise and safety threats from tourist choppers for years. The racket is especially jarring in parks including Brooklyn Bridge Park and on Governors Island, where city dwellers seek a bit of peace.

Choose ‘Other’

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has jurisdiction over city heliports. When you file a 311 complaint under EDC you get three options: “NYPD,” “News Gathering” and “Other.”

Choose “Other,” Elstein said.

Just because 311 will accept a complaint, it doesn’t mean that NYCEDC can do anything about it, however.

“EDC does not seem to be closing any of its requests since Feb. 22, 2022,” said

Zhi Keng He, a data analyst with the good-government civic organization Beta NYC. “Since the beginning of the year it has left over 22,513 complaints ‘In Progress’ and only closed 152 complaints.”

NYCEDC says that helicopter tours originating from outside NYC are not subject to the same city regulations as tours departing from heliports under their management, He said. City regulation of these flights is pre-empted by federal law and subject only to the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration.

None-the-less, Elstein urged people to register their complaints with 311, as these complaints can be tracked by civic organizations and journalists. People can also complain via a new iPhone app called “Right Avenues: NYU Live Noise,” which anonymously collects and aggregates the complaints. That app is available at the Apple app store.

Stop the Chop, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Cobble Hill Association and others have endorsed a bill to eliminate nonessential helicopter trips introduced in June by City Councilmembers Lincoln Restler (Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights), Gale Brewer (Upper West Side) and Shahana Hanif (Carroll Gardens, Park Slope).

“The city of New York has spent conservatively $5 billion dollars building new waterfront parks and interior parks across Brooklyn and Queens, only to have their effect ruined by the helicopters,” Adrian Benepe, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and former NYC Parks Commissioner, said at the introduction to Restler’s bill.

“There might be a few million a year return on investment from the helicopters for the city and the parks,” he added. “There’s a technical word for that in budget talk: Bupkis! In exchange for bupkis, we are destroying this city.”


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