Residents, pols demand city ban of non-essential helicopter flights from public heliports

Federal lawmakers Jerry Nadler (D–Red Hook) and Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg) introduced legislation to ban non-essential helicopter flights above the Five Boroughs outside City Hall on Oct. 26.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Brooklyn Heights residents called on Mayor de Blasio to unilaterally ban non-essential helicopter flights from a Lower Manhattan heliport, claiming the choppers’ racket is making life in their bougie brownstones unbearable.

“Mayor de Blasio could with a stroke of the pen close down the Downtown Manhattan Heliport,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Roberto Gautier at a rally on Saturday.

Hizzoner could single-handedly curb rampant noise pollution and safety hazards by closing the launch pad at Pier 6 to non-essential chopper traffic, which is owned by the city’s quasi-public business boosting Economic Development Corporation, according to one Manhattan legislator.

“The Mayor has it in his control today to shut down the Downtown Heliport, we urge him to do that,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D—Manhattan).

The Oct. 26 rally on the steps of City Hall aimed to gin up support for a federal bill that would completely ban all private charter, commuter, or tourist flights over the city’s airspace — while still allowing for whirly birds flying for purposes of government, military, law enforcement, infrastructure maintenance, emergency or disaster response, research, and the news.

The federal ban would outlaw recently-launched ride-share chopper flights above the Five Boroughs and the city’s waters — including Uber’s sky taxi and Blade, which shuttle well-heeled passengers from the heliport to the city’s outer-borough airports at upwards of $200 a pop.

But, while that bill slowly works its way through a preoccupied congress, the gathered demonstrators called for the Mayoral ban to provide temporary relief in the interim.

Helicopters could still take off from New Jersey or outside the city limits under a possible ban from the mayor, but it would alleviate the noise until when and if the feds push through their new law, said Gautier.

“That’s different because for this proposed legislation to get through, it’s not going to happen in one minute if it happens at all,” he said.

De Blasio on Friday voiced his approval for limiting leisurely flights over the Manhattan’s airspace but stopped short of fully endorsing the federal law change in an interview on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.

“I haven’t seen the specific bill I want to be careful on that because I’ve heard different interpretations of it,” he said. “There should be no non-essential flights over Manhattan. The only helicopters that should be going over Manhattan should be if it is public services, uniformed services, things that are essential.”

He went on to say that he didn’t think that ride-share helicopters were “particularly important” but left open the option for some private uses of helicopters.

“There are some private uses of helicopters that are pertinent, that are appropriate, that we still need to leave space for, but I think the goal here is to just greatly reduce the amount of helicopter activity in and around this city,” he said.

The Mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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