Copter complaints go unanswered

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Nell Lynch from Bay Ridge says:
Helicopters and their noise increase in the summer months because of the helicopters taking summer passengers to the Hamptons. It is against FAA regulations for private helicopters (as opposed to police and army helicopters) to fly over residential neighborhoods, not just because of noise pollution, but because of the risk of crashing in populated areas. Helicopters licensed to take passengers have strict flight paths and must fly along the shore and over the water out towards Long Island. I found calls to the FAA to be very helpful. Everyone concerned should call the FAA, as well as complain on their website, and talk to them about the safety risks of helicopters flying over residential areas, not just the noise.
June 21, 2009, 9:25 am
Lisa from Bay Ridge says:
It is about new FAA policy to convert LGA to full capacity airport like JFK or Liberty in NJ.

Jets are flying lower, so helicopters are "pushed" down too.

It was not in newspaper, not on radio or TV- nothing could prepare us to this disaster – FAA redesigned our airspace without telling us anything.

Directly over our building in Bay Ridge very low flying jets are flying from 6:30 am to 11:30pm sometimes as often as 2 jets per minute!!!

There is no escape from awful whistling sound that penetrates everywhere.
I am sleeping with ear plugs; during evenings and on weekends wear industrial ear muffs- still hear those planes. That is not normal life.

In apartment buildings area where sound is trapped among the buildings, echoes from one to another creating absolutely horrible effect.

Did FAA perform any tests in the city with so many multi stored buildings?
Not in the field near airport, where sound waves are “free to go” in all directions, not in 1-2 stories houses typical suburban communities, but here among buildings, in so highly dense residential area?

Does somebody considered us, when they decreased jet flight so low and at the same time significantly increased volume of planes going to LGA?

July 20, 2009, 10:56 pm

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