Op-Ed: The Scourge of Copter Noise


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  • Photo: empty007, via flickr



Helicopter noise is a relentless burden, and now there’s a chance things will get quieter.

Tourist helicopters flying over New York City takeoff from the Downtown Manhattan Helipad near Wall Street, and they fly up and down the Hudson River and around the bay. They operate 7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. Tourist helicopter noise impacts everyone who lives, works, attends school, or enjoys public parks along their flight path.

Last Thursday I joined Council Members Carlos Menchaca of southeast Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of lower Manhattan to introduce legislation to limit tourist helicopters based on noise. The Federal Aviation Administration categorizes helicopters by noise from Stage 1, the loudest, to Stage 3. The five helicopter tourist companies that operate in New York City all use Stage 2 helicopters. We have jurisdiction to ban Stages 1 and 2 on our own, but we need approval from the US Secretary of Transportation to limit the least noisy category of helicopters, Stage 3.

At our press conference announcing the legislation, people came from all over the City to explain how helicopter noise impacted them. Murray Fisher, Founder of the Harbor School, a public school with marine-focused Career and Technical Education programs based on Governor’s Island, explained how helicopter noise affects teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn. Paul Rieckhoff, Founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and resident of Battery Park City, said helicopter noise in his neighborhood is worse than he experienced in Baghdad. Representatives from Weehawken, New Jersey and the office of New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires attended to show their support. Delia Von Neuschatz, who felt so fed up with helicopter noise that she founded a non-profit, Stop the Chop NY NJ, noted that no other major city -- London, Paris, D.C. -- has helicopter tours. Cheré Campbell, an Upper West Sider, echoed what I’ve heard from many of you: helicopter noise is too frequent and too loud and warrants relief. I particularly appreciate Council Member Paul Vallone from Bayside speaking out in support of our efforts.

The tourist helicopter industry launched a coalition, named “Helicopters Matter”, and ran a full-page ad in Friday’s issue of the New York Daily News. They argue the industry creates 219 jobs and adds about $33 million to the city’s economy. They note that calls made to 311 regarding noisy helicopters have diminished over time and are far fewer than 311 complaints noise from loud parties.

I’m looking forward to our first hearing about these bills, when we can tease out critical issues around the impact of noise on residents’ quality of life, and whether removing tourist helicopters would have a meaningful impact on New York City’s economy. I’m also curious as to why 311 helicopter noise complaints have decreased. Are residents fed up with getting no response from government about their complaints?

If this issue matters to you and you experience helicopter noise, please call 311 to issue a complaint. The City -- and the tourist helicopter industry -- is listening.

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side on the City Council


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