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.”