A City Council hearing to re-evaluate helicopter safety precautions and noise mitigation revolved around not only the unresolved issue of low-flying choppers on their way to eastern Long Island, but also the seeming inability of the government to track noise complaints.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) led the hearing April 18 as chairman of the Committee on Economic Development to draft a resolution to bring meaningful change to residents who endure constant noise under the current helicopter regulations.
“Who do we bring to the table to tell the 8.5 million people of this city that they are safe? It’s clear after today’s hearing that the safety standards and operating procedures for any helicopter in New York City must be completely revisited, as well as a complete analysis of the economic impact the tourist helicopter industry has on our city,” Vallone said. In March five sightseers were killed in a helicopter crash in the East River.
“Any new study should include not only sightseeing helicopters, but charter flights as well, which have long destroyed the quality of life of Queens and Long Island residents,” he said.
Vallone’s resolution calls for the Federal Aviation Administration to change the North Shore Helicopter Route, which for the most part spares much of Long Island while communities along the waterways of northeast Queens make more complaints about helicopter noise.
“We have advocated and will continue to advocate to the FAA that they re-evaluate the allowable flight path for these charter flights. EDC would welcome participating in any working group that might be convened with the FAA on the issue,” said David Hopkins, the senior director of aviation at the EDC.
According to a release from Vallone’s office, the 3-1-1 system is not up to the task of collecting complaint data and analyzing it with transparency.
Non-government websites fighting helicopter noise have sprung up in light of this issue with 3-1-1, and “Stop the Chop” has gathered about 12,000 complaints in 2018 so far.
“We receive the brunt of the traffic as helicopters enter and leave the FAA’s North Shore Route at the Nassau County line. While the noise and disruption to our quality of life peaks on Friday and Sunday during the summer vacation time period, it remains a year-round problem. Please support this resolution, which extends the North Shore route westward to include Queens County,” said Michael Gannon, president of the Douglas Manor Association.
The environmental impact of sightseeing helicopters is far more considerable than the amount of revenue gained by the city through the industry, which is about $2 million to $3 million annually, according to Vallone.
“Every day our residents must endure the constant onslaught of helicopter and aviation traffic and noise over their homes, while their quality of life is continuously eroded. I am tired of an industry that hides behind the FAA and Port Authority without offering any voluntary changes to a system that they can easily fix without legislation,” Vallone said. “Particularly in northeast Queens, there has been a growing and seemingly endless attack by low flying charter helicopters above my constituents’ homes at all hours of the day and night.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall