Elected Officials Push Again to Curb Helicopters as UWSer Says She ‘Literally Cannot Get Any Rest’

A helicopter flying over Central Park, February 21, 2021.

By Alex Israel

Elected officials are still pushing for liftoff on helicopter safety legislation that would make the skies over New York City safer and quieter. Rep. Jerry Nadler and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both joined Manhattan Community Board 7 over Zoom to share updates during the April full board meeting.

The issue is not a new one, as the movement to curb helicopter traffic has taken off over the last several years. In 2019, Rep. Nadler, as well as Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez, introduced legislation to address helicopter safety needs in response to years of flight accidents and noise pollution.

The community is fed up with the issue, which has been brought up during CB7 meetings as far back as 2013. “The frequency of these helicopters, 7 days a week, is so high I literally cannot get any rest,” said one local resident in the April meeting, whose livelihood as a sound engineer is being impacted by the constant noise. “I just don’t understand how this has been allowed to happen.”

To virtual applause from board members, Nadler announced that he recently reintroduced that Improving Helicopter Safety Act to Congress. The bill aims to impose stricter regulations on helicopter flights over New York and cut down on noise pollution by prohibiting non-essential flight in city airspace. Complaints about helicopter noise increased by 130% between October 2019 and October 2020, according to a press release.

“The expansion and lack of regulation of helicopters is a nuisance and a safety hazard to the city that can no longer be ignored,” said Brewer in the press release. “We have been working on this for years,” she said in the Zoom meeting, outlining two recent meetings with city elected officials and other representatives from New Jersey and New York.

Acknowledging a particularly grating barrage of helicopter noise over the weekend of April 3 and 4, Brewer expressed sympathy with those who commented earlier in the meeting. “I hear them, people call me, they email me, they text me.”

According to Brewer, the main offenders are the people flying to the city from New Jersey just to take photographs over Manhattan. “It’s horrible,” she said. “Then they are putting them on Instagram and going home.” NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organization, has cut ties with companies providing this service, but without the federal legislation Brewer says there isn’t much else she can do. “I’ve tried everything.”

Still, Brewer wants the public to know the issue remains important to her office. With hope that additional pressure from the New Jersey representatives will help prompt urgency, “We’re going to keep pushing,” she said. “We’ve left no stone unturned on this particular issue.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 41 comments | permalink
    1. David Kimchi says:

      It’s such a shame that NYC (such a densely populated area) has to deal with this constant barrage of helicopter noise. It’s a nuisance with absolutely no benefit to the community, detracting from our quality of life virtually every minute of the day. I find the noise most jarring when I’m in Central Park. I hope and pray that something can be done.

    2. Kim says:

      It’s about time to raise a heli balloo about this issue!

    3. jms says:

      This is a very serious issue (seriously), and I hope these infuriating — and dangerous — neighborhood overflights can be banned quickly, completely, and permanently. If federal legislation is what it takes to restore peace around here, let’s have it.

      Meanwhile, I find the sound of screaming effective in covering up helicopter noise.

    4. Lisa says:

      It appears the FAA has the ability to issue a new rule, as they did after Cory Lidle crashed his plane into the UES apartment building in 2006: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lidle-crash-prompts-nyc-flight-changes/. Can someone who knows more than me explain why they aren’t doing so now?

      • jms says:

        I suspect it’s because the FAA has yet to be fully detrumpified. We’ll see.

        • nemo paradise says:

          Exactly what I suspected! Trump is behind this, just as he lurks behind every ill that plagues mankind. Concerned citizens like you, who will not rest until we are completely “detrumpified “ are our best hope.

        • ST says:

          Just as a cyclist and former member of Bicycle Alternatives (Howard Yaruss) is head of the Transportation committee of CB7, the head of the FAA, Steve Dickson, is a pilot. They don’t exactly represent everyone.

          • Ellen Shell says:

            Interesting, is that why CB7 spends so much time on bike initiatives and they take no stance against all the complaints about the reckless bike riders who are creating safety issues for many pedestrians. Interesting.

      • Lisa says:

        According to New York Magazine, “the FAA could issue Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) over Manhattan, as it has for the airspace over Disneyland and Disneyworld since 2014, and as it does during major events, such as the United Nations General Assembly.” It’s time to appeal to Biden to make this happen.

      • ST says:

        Interestingly there are plenty of small planes meandering over the city as well, especially on the weekend. It is as though there is NOBODY paying attention.

    5. Please sign our Petition to ban nonessential helicopters (tourist, photography, commuter) from NYC. We are a grassroots nonprofit organization and large coalition supporting the federal bill introduced by our Congressmembers,as well as supporting local solutions (there is a pending bill introduced by Councilmember Vallone to restrict charter helicopters to Stage 3 quieter ones, and we would like the NYC heliports closed to nonessential helicopters as well). Sign up for our newsletter; volunteer with us; follow us on social media; donate. All this and more on our website: http://www.stopthechopnynj.org Thanks! Stop The Chop NY/NJ

      • jms says:

        Change.org-hosted petitions never work for me for whatever reason, so would someone please visit the site mentioned and sign the form while thinking of me (or the sound of helicopters buzzing by close overhead)? Thanks!

        Yr pal,

      • Bill says:

        Thx for your leadership. I joined and donated. On a recent evening walk (10PM) with my pooch, three helicopters overhead.

    6. Josh P. says:

      We should ban the helicopters, but let’s be honest about the real sources of noise here – it’s 1) cars with altered mufflers that you can hear for blocks and 2) double parked cars that cause people stuck behind them to honk. Noise is a serious problem in the community and we should address it at the source, even if it’s a little more uncomfortable than banning helicopters that are only used by a handful of tourists and billionaires.

      • David Kimchi says:

        It depends on where you are. When you’re in Central Park, it’s not the cars, it’s the helicopters. Also, most of the helicopter riders are joyriders from NJ – not serving anyone who actually lives in NYC.

        • Josh P. says:

          You’re right about Central Park. I spend a lot more time in my home though and without a doubt the cars are a bigger source of noise than helicopters. I think you’re also right that people are focused on the helicopters not because they’re the biggest source of noise, but because the people in the helicopters are an easier target politically than the people double parking on our streets. Politics is all about the art of the possible, so I’m happy to see noise from helicopters reduced if we can get it. If we want to actually reduce noise in the neighborhood though we need to fight a tougher political battle against altered mufflers and double parking.

        • UpperWestSider says:

          And Central Park gets more visitors in a year than Disney World (with no admissions fee).

      • Ellen Shell says:

        Thank you. It feels like we ignore many many many obvious quality of life issues that affect large swaths of people, while focusing attention on quality of life issues that seem caused by….”rich” people. What about those nightly gang rides by the unregistered dirt bikes and ATVs that plague so many with unnecessary noise pollution? AND create safety hazards?

    7. D-Rex says:

      The photo for this article is showing a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter (an MH65 in the typical Coast Guard orange paint scheme).

      While they do make noise, I am fairly certain just about everyone is OK with them flying over the river.
      Suggest a photo of one the tourist, commuter, or Hampton-bound helicopters coming out of South Street, or Hudson Yards heliports. Those, I believe, are the ones that are violating existing laws and disrupting our lives.

      • Ellen Shell says:

        That is an excellent observation. Thank you for pointing this out. I think we can all agree that we need Coast Guards to be there to assist passengers in distress. Let’s be clear where the real problem is. Everyone doesn’t always fall into one bucket do they?

    8. Dan Z says:

      FYI the photo is of a US Coastguard Dauphin rescue helicopter, and I’m cool with them going wherever they want. Please use a stock photo of a ‘bad’ hamptons commuter helicopter

    9. Crawdad says:

      She never heard of ear plugs or white noise? Why should all commerce cease because some random person can’t get sleep? I live near RSD and have no problem sleeping with the copters.

      • Lisa says:

        It’s Central Park that’s the problem. You clearly don’t ever go there or work for the helicopter tour company LOL.

      • ST says:

        Snort. When I am in the park I’d like to hear birds singing not wear earplugs. Furthermore, helis don’t just bring noise they bring vibration. I live with constant rat tat tat as the downdraft hits the rooftops. Try earplugging that out. There have been so many crashes already. We are due for the next one. A handful if small comoanies making money off the peace of millions? Commerce more important than safety?

    10. EmsKevin says:

      Harnessed passengers flying over NYC streets in a single engine aircraft with basically no redundant safety features on board the aircraft . These are carnival rides in tin cans . A disaster is going to happen but this time it won’t be into the Hudson River . It’s going to be on the streets of NY . Not what if …… more like when ………

    11. EagleEye says:

      Correction needed next to last paragraph. Main offenders are the people flying FROM NJ to NYC, not the reverse.

    12. Nina Rosenblum and Dan Allentuck says:

      We are devastated by the terrible heliocopter noise . Just as we started reading this article, two came by low and loud, one right after the other over 84th Street and Riverside Drive. This is horrible. We don’t have a moment of peace because of this constant heliocopter traffic. Please work hard to get federal legislation passed ASAP.

    13. dang! says:

      I think the military helicopters are the ones making the most noise since they have the heavy duty engines, not the commuting helicopters.

      • Peaceful Skies Coalition says:

        Very few military helis fly over NYC, and usually stick to river routes. Saw a Blackhawk land at KJRB yesterday. Kinda cool seeing it create a giant sea spray on approach. And yes insanely loud.

    14. chocolate sugar queen says:

      Easy solution.Close the heliports to ALL helicopters except news and police. Who makes money from the heliports? The city. End of story.

      • ST says:

        Perhaps study the issue more. The city can control its own heliports but the problem lies with the heliports in New Jersey that send tourist flights to New York from 6:30 am till as late as 11:00 at night. And every single Hamptons commuter flight likes to go sightseeing over New York as well. Only the federal government can control the New Jersey and other flights.

    15. NYCpeace says:

      Military Helicopters ? ?? Your concerned about those yet people strapped to a helicopter with doors off flying right over our heads doesn’t concern you ? I rather my military fly over my head then a lawnmower . I was in the military . The commuting aircraft you speak of are generally big S-76s which are dual engine . These fly over my apartment rarely and are at a good altitude . The other day I watched a helicopter fly so low over the building that I could make out the sneaker brand on the passengers dangling feet .We should all pick and chose our battles . God bless our military ! They don’t bother me and I see they stick to the river . Whoever the company is doing routes over the nyc populations heads in the bells should probably stop . Noise is one thing but this doesn’t seem safe at all for them and us on the ground . I once had a shovel hit me in the head bc my son let it fall from our garage roof while cleaning snow . I couldn’t imagine a helicopter . To much risk . I’m all about freedoms but there has to be a limit .

    16. AR says:

      No reason to fly over Central Park in a residential zone.. the Heliport is in the 30s… and if they wish to continue the tourist “joy rides”, let them continue in that zone and get glimpses of Times Square, a known tourist attraction.

    17. Persy77 says:

      This is an article from Gotham gazette . Read below

      FlyNYON’s relentless flights over New York make a joke of the hard-won 2016 agreement by which helicopter companies based at the Downtown Heliport agreed to (1) avoid flying over land, (2) reduce the number of flights by 50% on a tight schedule, (3) not fly on Sunday, (4) ban flights over Governors Island, and (5) turn around before the George Washington Bridge when flying up the Hudson, which in practice meant 79th Street for most flights.

      Since FlyNYON operates out of New Jersey, and not the Downtown Heliport, it is free to defy the agreement’s restrictions, as are all tour companies flying from any non-NYC helipad. Heli-tours now operate on Sunday, and pilots fly where and when they want with abandon.

      Perhaps even worse, many flights violate common decency, continuing to fly hours after dark, which means they turn on powerful searchlights so that their passengers can see the ground. Some tour companies fly until midnight, especially in Lower Manhattan.

      How do I know? FlightRadar tells me so.

    18. ST says:

      Because the CP Reservoir is the money shot for helicopter tourism as well as private flights (from as far away as Boston and Philadelphia), I have forty or more flights a day over my apartment. Even airports vary their flight paths, but there is no break from the helis. Especially on major holidays there is not peace. And you can hear from quite a few blocks away and as they circle and circle as well. At major events (like concerts in the park), they will hover for as much as forty minutes. Some private helis fly as low as 350 to 500 feet wildcatting. Not to mention playing chicken. Also now with the phone apps like Plane Finder that can monitor them, many many are turning their transponders off so we do not even know what is up there. A Homeland Security nightmare for a the city that experienced terror from the skies at 9/11. During Covid, more New Yorkers than ever before found comfort, serenity and solace in our beautiful parks. Except we are being constantly buzzed by tourists from New Jersey and wealthy private riders. How undemocratic that a few disrupt life for the millions.

    19. Tom says:

      Take a look at the political donations to the Mayor and City Council from registered lobbyists on behalf of the helicopter associations. Listing those would be real journalism instead of simply repeating the press releases and comments of our local elected officials and the repetitive comments of helpless citizens on the Upper West Side. Those donations go a long way to explaining why the indifferent, incompetent de Blasio and the inert City Council have monetized the public airspace over our City.

      • Ellen Shell says:

        Great comment. The more I look and learn the more I see that the “unsolvable” problems in the city can be traced to lobbyists and their political donations. People are kidding when they say follow the money. The current officials who claim they can’t do anything more, shame on you.

    20. Sandy says:

      Can you tell why I care about helicopters when people are being slashed in the street!

      • Julie Komiss says:

        Exactly . We are scared for our lives and our kid’s safety. How cares about helicopters? Got used to them.