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City Council Members Working on Bill to Ban Tourist Helicopters in NYC

 City Council members want to ban tourist flights of helicopters in New York City.
City Council members want to ban tourist flights of helicopters in New York City.
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FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A proposed City Council bill calls for a complete "moratorium" on what many have called unbearably noisy tourist helicopter flights.

The legislation, which is still in draft form, would ban tourist trips in helicopters, the Daily News first reported.

Lower Manhattan residents and local elected officials have long complained about what they say is the constant noise from tourist helicopters whirring overhead. Tourist helicopter trips take off and land in only one spot in New York City: the Financial District's Pier 6, in the East River. There are currently five companies that operate from the city-owned heliport.

A spokesman for City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a longtime proponent of curtailing the helicopter tourism industry, said she is in favor of the ban.

"Our constituents have made it clear that the noise pollution from the helicopters is overwhelming and we're in support of a moratorium on the tourist flight," Chin spokesman Paul Leonard said.

There are more than 40,000 tourist flights a year in the city, and many city residents, especially in Lower Manhattan and across the river in Brooklyn, say the daily flights bring too much loud, disruptive noise.

A group called Stop the Chop, which formed a couple of years ago, and includes New Jersey residents, now has more than 2,000 members and has been working to petition elected officials to ban the helicopters, which they also say are especially loud for young children. They're also concerned about the flights' effect on air pollution.

Helicopter tour proponents say the industry employs more than 200 people and brings about $30 million a year to the city's economy.

“The helicopter tourism industry has always been great for New York," Brian Tolbert, manager of the Lower Manhattan heliport and spokesman for the pro-industry group Helicopter Matters, told the Daily News. "We follow all the rules and don’t cause any trouble."

In 2010, tourist helicopters were banned from flying over land, but that has not curtailed the noise, many say, including Community Board 1, which has long asked for a ban or limits on the helicopter tours.

"We get constant complaints from our residents about the dozens of helicopters that take off every day of the week," said Ro Sheffe, the co-chair of CB1's Financial District Committee. "It's an awful situation and we would be happy to see a ban on the flights."

Lower Manhattan resident Tricia Joyce said she and her family were "overwhelmed by the constant roar" of the helicopters when they took a recent trip to Governors Island.

"It was like a war zone with all that noise from the helicopters," Joyce said. "Every few minutes, there's another helicopter taking off. It's just terrible."

In addition to Chin, several other local officials, including state Sen. Daniel Sqaudron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler have also been actively working to curtail helicopter traffic.

These elected officials also recently voiced concerns about a private helicopter takeoff at Battery Park City's North Cove Marina, from a heliport aboard a mega yacht.

"Lower Manhattan is already inundated with helicopter traffic from the Downtown Heliport, and members of the community are rightly concerned about the impact of helicopters on their safety and quality of life," officials wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Battery Park City Authority. "We ask that the BPCA do everything in its power to prevent the use of the helicopters at North Cove Marina."

In a letter to the officials, a spokeswoman from Brookfield Place, which now operates the marina, said all boats would be informed that "any helicopters are strictly prohibited."

The Council ban under review would not curtail private helicopter use, though it was unclear whether it is currently illegal to fly off a boat docked at the marina.