Pols: Ban all tourist helicopters

Pols: Ban all tourist helicopters
Photo by Tom Callan

All tourist helicopter flights must be banned from Brooklyn skies because city officials have failed to stop the window-rocking, sanity-testing chopper noise from bombarding waterfront neighborhoods, locals demanded on Sunday.

“Enough is enough!” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), who was joined by other elected officials and residents on Sunday in demanding an end to the noise. “We need to stop the endless parade of tourist helicopter flights over our neighborhoods.”

The battle over choppers began in 2010, when a helipad on the West Side of Manhattan shut down, forcing choppers to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, which is opposite Brooklyn Heights. After noise complaints, the Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the helipad, instituted a no-fly zone over Brooklyn Heights, but that only moved the noise to Governors Island, and then to Red Hook.

The city rerouted the problem last month, allowing flights over the Buttermilk Channel, but pols say that the only thing that will work is a complete ban on sightseeing copters.

“It feels like we’re in a war zone,” said Heights resident Angela Graham. “There’s always at least three or four helicopters in the sky at once.”

Vietnam veteran Duncan McGonagle prays for bad weather, which reduces the number of flights.

“I’m having flashbacks because it sounds exactly like being back in Vietnam again,” said McGonagle, a Red Hook resident. “These choppers are every five minutes.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Councilman Steve Levin and Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton also attended Sunday’s press conference at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and called tourism helicopters an unnecessary nuisance.

No aviation defenders were present, but Jeffrey Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, said in a statement that copter bans were “extremely misguided.”

“Banning tourism flights will cripple a significant component of the city’s tourism industry — an industry that has kept New York’s economy going in times of financial struggle,” Smith said.

Officials from the Economic Development Corporation and Saker Aviation, which operates the helipad, did not respond to calls.

Helicopter sightseeing tours can run from $200 to $900 a pop, which may make the city reluctant to ban them altogether. But Squadron says New York’s tourism industry will survive without the out-of-towner copters.

“At the end of the day, we have too many helicopters and too densely populated an area,” Squadron said.

Dozens of residents joined a panoply of pols in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sunday in calling for a complete ban on tourist helicopter flights.
Photo by Tom Callan