The city announced on Sunday that it’s made a deal with tourist helicopter companies to reduce flights by 50%, and ban tourist flights altogether on Sundays.

Upper West Siders have been complaining for years about the copters, which buzz near parks and residences in the neighborhood. A deal made in 2010 to eliminate flights from the West 30th street heliport and to keep helicopters from flying over Central Park proved to be an inadequate solution, because tour operators simply ramped up flights from the Downtown Heliport in Battery Park. In 2011, 44,008 tourist flights took off from the Downtown Heliport. In 2015, there were 56,085 tourist flights, according to Merritt Birnbaum, the executive director of the Governor’s Island Alliance. An op-ed Birnbaum and former NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wrote for the Times on Sunday called the helicopters “a plague” that was ruining parks like Governor’s Island.

“We’ve reached an agreement that will significantly cut down on the number of helicopter tours near residential areas and major parks, while keeping this part of our tourism sector active and viable,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “Everyone gave a little to get to this outcome, but the solution will mean a more livable city for everyone.”

City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who had co-sponsored a bill to end tourist flights entirely, called the deal “a victory,” and said it will allow the city to more closely monitor the effects of the helicopters.

“The announcement includes requirements to monitor the number of tours, amount of noise, and air quality, which are critical components of our ongoing efforts to hold the industry accountable.”

But some remain unconvinced. Benepe said it remains “an environmental mess” and notes there will stil be about 150 flights per day.

“The sweetheart deal, which was negotiated in secret and without any community input, is totally unacceptable for addressing the air and noise pollution that the tourist helicopters cause,” said John Dellaportas, president of a community-based opposition group called “Stop the Chop,” in a statement.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 11 comments | permalink
    1. Harriet Frank says:

      This is a step forward, but not a solution. There is no reason why a fascinating, bustling city like New York needs to offer helicopter flights to attract tourists as there are so many other ways that they can spend their money here. Also, the fact that flights will still be permitted on Saturdays is an affront to religious Jews who would like to enjoy Riverside and other parks in peace on the Sabbath.

      • Woody says:

        Does it really need to be explained to you why some people like to take sightseeing helicopter rides?

        • DenMark says:

          While I don’t agree with the jewish angle taken by Harriet, it doesn’t change the point. Does it really need to be explained to you that ALL of the people who live in this city should be able to enjoy their limited outdoor spaces as peacefully as reasonably possible? From a rational cost-benefit perspective, there is minimal cost/economic impact on reducing helicopter tours (some jobs will be lost initially, but the tourists will still come), but the benefits (while small) will impact thousands of residents (and tourists).

          • Woody says:

            You’re just regurgitating what plenty of others routinely say about helicopter touring. Nothing you said has anything to do with my comment that “people like to take sightseeing helicopter rides” in response to this part of her comment:

            “There is no reason why a fascinating, bustling city like New York needs to offer helicopter flights to attract tourists as there are so many other ways that they can spend their money here.”

            She’s projecting her preferences on others.

      • Iiari says:

        As a religious and Sabbath observant Jew myself, I find that element of your argument to be slightly bizarre. Every other social, economic, and political happening continues on Saturdays, oblivious to the Sabbath, as it is already. Why would we ask privately owned helicopters piloted in public airspace over public parks to stop for observant Jews? I actually hope you’re just trolling here…

    2. Pedestrian says:

      It’s not just an environmental mess; it’s a safety hazard. Low flying helicopter over densely populated areas and who bears the risk? Unsuspecting residents on the ground! The City has the power to ban these flights. It should do so but of course some corporate folks might be upset so humans on the ground must just shut up.

      Don’t you just love secret deals announced on Sunday! Yep, he’s a “transparent” transactional mayor alright.

      As for the CITY Council that seems poised to cave on every issue from zoning to horses to helicopters….profiles in courage they are not!

    3. john says:

      If tourist want to do something dangerous make them ride city bikes for their thrills!

    4. jezbel says:

      Helen Rosenthal couldn’t identify is “victory” if it bit her on the ass. This new agreement is a compromise, at best… at it’s worst it’s just business as usual. 150 flights a day is still a lot of helicopter traffic taking off, landing and flying over the City and the Upper West Side. I should know, I flew in a helicopter for more than 2 years as a traffic reporter for a radio station a couple of decades ago. And I witnessed first hand several accidents a year, most with fatalities, mostly by the tourist industry. There is too much air traffic for the pilots to even be responsible enough to account for each other in the skies, nevermind the noise and air pollution. When I flew I was in a piston helicopter, a tiny little thing that held two people. Now all the helicopters are using jet fuel and and large capacity vehicles which burn lots of fuel right over our heads. It’s appalling.

    5. For what's its worth says:

      Someone really needs to question NYC & Company why they continue to take membership $ from the Helicopter industry since for years they have complained to the many presidents/ceo’s and membership reps, vice presidents to deaf ears. NYC & Company the cities so-called tourism agency staff have no clue to the noise the helicopters make daily which is a quality of life issue. We really also need to realize this is a bigger problem than horse carriages.

    6. Margaret says:

      I’m with Harriet Frank – I’m grateful for this but it’s a half step.

      Flights over Staten Island were banned immediately. Why are we waiting until April for quiet Sundays and until 2017 for a reduction by half?

      Would like to see fully helicopter-free parks all weekends and on holidays. Immediately – Staten Island style. We should get the noise of these tourist helicopters away from our homes and parks.

    7. Adrastos says:

      This is a small step in the right direction. Governors Island was not a nice place to go to with the helicopters circling the island all day long, it was like a war zone. Red Hook and Carroll Gardens also became a hell as well.
      The tourists have millions of other things to do besides ride helicopters and disturbing hundreds of thousands of tax paying residents all day every day for 10 hours a day.
      Why do we have to wait till April for a ban on Sundays, start it now. Also, Hudson River Park is still going to be ruined, they are still going to be flying there. We know this is a city and there will be noise, but this noise we can and should stop, it isn’t vital to the city that we have tourist helicopters, totally not necessary. We need to have some sort of quiet when we can, and by eliminating tourist helicopters, we can have jut=st that, nice tranquil waterfront parks.
      The residents have been complaining for years about the noise of these helicopters, what part about this are our elected officials not getting. Its about time a little something was done to alleviate this madness.