On Sunday, May 15, Congress members Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velázquez introduced a new federal bill during a press conference in front of the East 34th Street Heliport. If approved, the legislation would significantly reduce nonessential helicopter traffic over the NYC metro area.
There are currently 17 co-sponsors for the measure, with Congress members from New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Georgia and Maryland all signed on to establish a commission to develop a helicopter usage management plan for certain airspace, among other purposes.
“For decades, New Yorkers have been forced to live with the substantial safety, noise and environmental impacts of tourism and commuter helicopters joyriding through our skies,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler at the event. “Over the past 50 years, there have been at least 30 helicopter crashes in our city, many of which have been fatal.” Nadler pointed out the Federal Aviation Administration “has done nothing” to take action despite the urgency that New Yorkers have felt on the issue. “Our communities have lived through the danger, noise and pollution generated by an industry that has operated nearly unfettered for decades. I look forward to forcing the FAA to finally act by passing this legislation into law.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the sponsor of Bill H.R.7769. In March 2021, Maloney also sponsored the Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2021 (H.R.1643) to prohibit operating helicopter flights over any city with a population of more than 8 million and a population density of over 25,000 people per square mile. If Bill H.R.1643 passes, the only helicopter flights that would be permissible in NYC would be those serving public health and safety efforts, law enforcement and emergency responses, or heavy-lift operations in support of construction and infrastructure maintenance.
Rep. Maloney said helicopter noise is one of the most common complaints she hears about from her constituents. “To put it simply, New Yorkers are being inundated with helicopter noise, and it is negatively affecting their quality of life, and their physical and psychological health, which is why I am determined to fix this with legislation.”
City Council Member Gale Brewer commended Representatives Maloney, Nadler and Velázquez for their continued advocacy of Stop the Chop. Brewer recently sent out a survey asking New Yorkers to share their concerns about helicopter noise. A spokesperson from Brewer’s team told ILTUWS this morning that over 100 responses have come in so far.
With many tourism helicopters currently skirting city law by taking off in New Jersey before flying into the city over the Hudson River, Brewer mentioned a resident described this stretch as “the Hudson Helicopter Highway.” It’s along this route where the choppers typically cut east toward Central Park, annoying neighbors on the Upper West Side while en route to and from the heliport. She also submitted a resolution calling on the state to amend the Hudson River Park Trust to remove the heliport from the park, as State Sen. Brad Hoylman is also working to do.
Stop the Chop coalition chair and secretary Melissa Elstein shared this statement with ILTUWS: “The current Wild West skies over the NYC metro area due to mostly unregulated sightseeing and commuter helicopters must end for safety, health, environmental and quality of life reasons. We also continue to support the first federal bill introduced by our NY Congress members (Improving Helicopter Safety Act), which would completely ban those nonessential helicopters over NYC.”
Stop the Chop is a grassroots organization that has been raising awareness and gaining support from officials in New York and New Jersey, as well as city organizations like the Central Park Conservancy and multiple community boards.
From October 2019 to October 2020, complaints about helicopter noise in NYC increased 130%, according to a press release from Rep. Maloney that also included a stat that NYC received more than 17,000 calls about helicopter noise through the end of September 2021, “eclipsing” complaints made in 2020 and 2019. Rep. Maloney also said “The FAA released its first noise survey in almost 30 years, which found that almost two-thirds of people were ‘highly annoyed’ by aircraft noise, which was about five times higher than what was reported in 1992.”
Bill H.R.7769 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A hearing to discuss the legislation hasn’t been assigned at this time.