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Downtown Helicopter Flights Restricted Under New Rules

By Julie Shapiro | April 30, 2010 2:08pm | Updated on May 2, 2010 11:31pm
Downtown Heliport could see 30 percent fewer tourist flights under the city's new plan.
Downtown Heliport could see 30 percent fewer tourist flights under the city's new plan.
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Wikimedia Commons / Patrick Permien

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Tour helicopters leaving from the Downtown Heliport will no longer be allowed to travel up the East River or make quick looks around the Statue of Liberty under sweeping new rules governing Manhattan chopper traffic unveiled Friday

The city's Economic Development Corporation, acting in response to complaints from residents and local politicians who said helicopter noise downtown worsened after the city closed the West 30th Street heliport April 1. The Downtown Heliport saw 8 percent more flights this spring compared to last year, the EDC said.

“The New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan is a win-win for both area residents and New York’s tourist industry,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corporation.

Under the new agreement between the EDC and the five tour operators at Downtown Heliport, helicopters will still be allowed to sweep around Lower Manhattan’s tip and travel up the Hudson River, going either to 79th Street or to Yankee Stadium by crossing Manhattan above Washington Heights, the EDC said Friday.

But they will not be allowed to fly over Brooklyn, Central Park or the Empire State Building.

The agreement also eliminates all short flights, lasting four to eight minutes, which represent 15 to 20 percent of the sightseeing flights at the heliport, EDC said. 

Plus, the helicopters must now stay above 1,500 feet the Hudson to reduce neighborhood noise, the EDC said.

The new restrictions could reduce the number of tour copters downtown by 30 percent, said State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who backed the changes.

Tour operators that do not comply could have their license revoked, EDC said.

Victor Papa, a Southbridge Towers resident and president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, was pleased to hear about the new restrictions.

“It makes for more peaceful living in Lower Manhattan, because right now living in Lower Manhattan ain’t too peaceful,” he said.

Papa said the constant rumble of helicopters is an unwelcome reminder of 9/11.

“There’s a lot of trauma still,” Papa said. “Helicopters are part of the context of fear in Lower Manhattan. Why is there a helicopter hovering above? What’s going on?”

In response to a letter from Squadron and other local politicians earlier this month, the city is also going to start tracking helicopter noise complaints by location, time and volume. The city will issue a monthly report on the data and form a task force to look at the results.

The city also agreed to provide additional protection for the 4,000 gallons of fuel that will be stored at the heliport, Squadron said.

“This is quick action and a good-faith effort to solve the problem,” Squadron told DNAinfo. “Time will tell whether this does in fact solve the problem.”