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The issue of helicopters that take off from and land at heliports throughout New York City has been a contentious one for more than a decade. And we believe for good reason.
One can only imagine what it must be like to live near the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and have to constantly deal with the noise from copter after copter all day long. And it is only getting worse.
Our elected leaders have banded together to call for a total ban on all helicopter flights related to tourism and the private sector leaving from the Downtown heliport. We strongly support this idea.
In 2003, the Federal Aviation Association recorded 10,002 helicopter flights to and from the Downtown heliport. In 2008, that number jumped to a whopping 57,984. Of the nearly 60,000 flights, 39,694 were categorized as “air taxi” as opposed to “military” and “itinerant.” Air Taxi is a phrase that applies to tourism and to the private sector. Companies advertise a helicopter ride as the best way to see Manhattan, from high above the ground as opposed to walking the streets that are bursting with history.
Many of these helicopter flights leave Lower Manhattan bound for the Hamptons. Their passengers are in the position to pay exorbitant prices to avoid the traffic on the weekend they would encounter on the Long Island Expressway. It’s an issue that has led to the locals on the East End protesting in the same way the residents of Lower Manhattan have been. It’s a quality of life issue, one that illustrates the class wars that have and are still dividing this city and country.
The presence of this non-essential helicopter traffic also increases exponentially the danger of accidents in the overcrowded New York City air corridors. The disastrous collision in August 2009 of a sightseeing helicopter and a private place off 14 St. in the Hudson River is a case in point. In a worst-case scenario, there is always the real risk of a copter crashing into our waterfront parks or streets, or a residential building.
We don’t want the heliports to disappear. Instead we want them to continue to exist out of necessity. Their use should be reserved for the most essential governmental, medical and emergency services. The City’s Economic Development Corporation likes to point to the economic impact resulting from these helicopter sightseeing flights. But we would instead choose to support the view of our local Congressman.
In a recent letter to the E.D.C.’s president, Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “This is not a segment of the tourist industry we truly need, and we feel quite confident that, should the heliport be closed, visitors would spend their dollars on other New York City attractions.”
We wholeheartedly agree. And for those seeking a quick flight to the Hamptons, they should have to travel a little farther from the density of Manhattan before boarding their helicopters.