Ban Noisy Tourist Helicopters Downtown, Pols Say
By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Lower Manhattan could soon get a lot quieter.
Local politicians are calling for the city to ban all tourist helicopters from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, following several noise complaints from Manhattan and Brooklyn residents.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and others gathered Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has a clear view of the busy heliport, to say residents are tired of the helicopters droning over their homes.
"It’s time to stop the never-ending parade of tourist flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport," Squadron said. "Chopper tours can't come at the expense of our neighborhoods' quality of life."
Ro Sheffe, chairman of Community Board 1's Financial District Committee, agreed.
"This is a community that is beset by construction projects and a tremendous amount of noise, from every source imaginable," Sheffe said on Monday. "The last thing we need is more noise overhead."
The Downtown Manhattan Heliport, at South Street near Broad Street, is the only launching pad for tourist copters in the city. The heliport saw an uptick in tourist flights beginning in April 2010 after the city stopped allowing tour companies to use the W. 30th Street heliport.
With the increase in helicopter traffic came an increase in noise complaints, so Squadron and other elected officials negotiated a deal with the city last year that curtailed the tourist flight routes and limited the number of takeoffs and landings at the Downtown Heliport.
However, helicopter noise continued to be a problem for residents, leading the politicians now to call for an outright ban.
The city's Economic Development Corp. released a statement Monday saying that ending tourist flights from New York City won't stop helicopters from hovering over the Big Apple — operators may move their launch points to New Jersey and Long Island instead.
"If sightseeing helicopters depart and return to the Downtown Heliport, which we control, then it creates jobs here, helps support our tourist industry, and we can exert influence on their flight paths, frequency, and regulate the hours they operate," the EDC said.
"If they move operations to nearby heliports in New Jersey and Nassau County then we have zero control."
The EDC added that they would continue to work with the community on the noise issues but said complaints have decreased in the past year.
Jeffrey Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said in a statement that the ban would be "extremely misguided." He said profits from the tourist flights help support a program that mobilizes helicopter pilots and owners to volunteer in emergencies.
Even if the ban goes through, the Downtown Heliport will still handle private traffic along with law enforcement helicopters.
A representative of Saker Aviation, which runs the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, declined to comment.