Copter complaints go unanswered

Copter complaints go unanswered
Roxanna Velandria

More and more Brooklynites are complaining about helicopter noise, but no one is listening, The Brooklyn Papers has learned — the hard way.

Calls to 311 from coptered-out residents of high-helicopter-traffic neighborhoods such as Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Boerum Hill and Park Slope are increasing, but the city has no jurisdiction over helicopter noise.

Who does? That answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.

The Brooklyn Papers — responding to complaints about all the racket near our DUMBO offices — set out to lodge its own complaint. Here’s what happened:

•Call 1 — 311: The city’s one-stop-sniping line logs complaints against everything from noisy dogs to nosy neighbors to noisome trucks, but 311 operators “don’t take complaints about noise from helicopters,” one operator told us.

Calling 311, in fact, was the first step on the road to the realization that there is no system in place to complain about chopper noise — which is coming from news helicopters, traffic helicopters, NYPD helicopters, tourist helicopters and even the newly restored airport helicopter service that shuttles the supposed Masters of the Universe from Wall Street to JFK Airport for $500 a person.

“There has been an increase [in helicopter noise],” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, which covers Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. “But there is not a heck of a lot that can be done about it.”

•Call 2 — The city Department of Environmental Protection: Here we were told that the agency has no ability to take complaints about air traffic, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. We were told that even complaints against helicopters owned by the city, such as police helicopters, should be directed to the FAA.

•Call 3 — The Eastern Region Helicopter Council: Many callers to 311 are told to call this Yardley, PA-based, non-governmental, self-policing association of helicopter operators.

The ERHC is so understaffed that complaints sent there are answered haphazardly — or not at all.

Even if the complaints do get through, however, the Council is ultimately powerless to act on them. The most it can do is share the information with other helicopter pilots. It is unclear whether it does this.

•Call 4 — The FAA: A visit to the agency’s Web site can, after enough clicking and scrolling to cause carpel tunnel syndrome in lab monkeys, yield the telephone number of a noise complaint hotline. We called it — but were later told by FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the agency doesn’t keep records of complaints it receives, or of any responses to those complaints.

Peters added that the FAA has little interest in mandating helicopter flight paths so that the whirly birds no longer annoy residents of once-quiet neighborhoods.

“That is something [the FAA] would not undertake,” he said.

All of our futile calling left us frustrated. Hammerman offered sympathy.

“It’s like I told you: The rules don’t provide a mechanism for community complaints about helicopter noise when [the helicopters] are in the air,” he said.