Choppers! Heights group fights helicopter invasion

Copter complaints go unanswered
Roxanna Velandria

If you think helicopter noise over Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and other waterfront neighborhoods is bad now, wait until this spring, when chopper traffic is expected to at least double.

In April, a heliport on Manhattan’s distant West Side will close, shifting its 75 daily tourist flights to a pad on the East River near Wall Street — and Brooklynites are already rallying to shoot down the invaders.

“What we have now is a free-for-all of helicopters over Brooklyn Heights,” Brooklyn Heights Association President Tom van den Bout told the Economic Development Corporation in a letter last week. “We are outraged at the prospect of doubling or tripling the number of helicopter flights past Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

The agency has agreed to meet on Friday with the BHA, which has tried to bar non-essential tourist helicopter flights for years to no avail. There is no reason to think they’ll succeed this time, given Mayor Bloomberg’s insistence that the city benefits from the tourist money from the 25,000 flights that took off from West 30th Street last year.

Each flight costs tourists at least $800 a pop. Do the math.

But the BHA has an ally in Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), who urged EDC not to relocate the non-essential tourist rides to the East Side heliport in the wake of August’s fatal helicopter collision in the Hudson.

The anti-copter campaign is making a lot of noise, but EDC spokesman David Lombino said that the BHA is misinformed, saying that the number of flights out of the West 30th Street Heliport this year was half of what it was last year.

Also, calls regarding helicopter noise to 311 have decreased, according to Nicholas Sbordone, spokesman for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Then again, Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman offered one explanation for the drop-off: The operators don’t take calls about helicopter noise because such noise can’t be logged without an actual street address, he said.

Even if formal complaints have decreased, the helicopters are still ruffling featherst.

“They fly too low — you can’t even hold a face-to-face conversation,” said BHA Executive Director Judy Stanton.

The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan