Board takes on helicopter noise

Downtown Express photo by Mia Rupani The heliport on Pier 6.

Downtown Express photo by Mia Rupani
The heliport on Pier 6.

BY MIA RUPANI  |   With 50,000 helicopter landings each year at Lower Manhattan’s heliport, Downtown residents have been fed up with the incessant drone of choppers that are catering to tourists.

Residents say the rising number of tourist helicopters, which depart from the Downtown Manhattan heliport at Pier 6, located at South and Broad Sts., is an unwanted disruption. The tours, which offer tourists a bird-eye’s view of the city, run seven days a week — including holidays.

At Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee meeting on Wed., June 3, not only did Downtown residents attend to discuss the persistent problem, but also those from the Upper West Side, Staten Island and even New Jersey.

“I had my windows shut, air conditioner on and white noise music playing…it still didn’t blot out the noise from the helicopters,” said Gene Wisniewski, a Weehawken resident. “It was relentless…it goes on from morning until night and I’m fed up with it.”

A round of applause followed this comment.

The city’s Economic Development Corp., which oversees the heliports, was invited to the meeting but did not show, much to the dismay of the board and Catherine McVay Hughes, C.B. 1’s chairperson.

“E.D.C. has been asked to come to the community board for over a year. It’s about time we get on the record again,” Hughes said. “The people in this room should know there are 50,000 helicopter landings on Pier 6 each year. We don’t want another helicopter season to go by.”

In an email to Downtown Express, E.D.C. spokesperson Ian Fried did not say if the corporation would be attending any board meetings about this issue in the future.

“We take the community’s concerns seriously and remain in contact with Community Board 1 about this and other issues,” Fried said. “We will provide an update to the board when one is available.”

Residents also raised concern for their children who are subjected to the constant thrum of helicopter blades, as well as the quality of air in the area from so many takeoffs and landings.

“It’s worse than having an airport because at least an airport has a public benefit,” said an Upper West Side resident. “These helicopter tours have no real public benefit aside from tourism and they can go to the top of the World Trade Center for views.”

Saker Aviation, a Nevada corporation, operates the Downtown Manhattan heliport where five companies run helicopter tours. Some at the meeting said the heliport does nothing but line the pockets of out-of-state companies.

Delia von Neuschatz, president of the grassroots organization Stop the Chop N.Y./N.J. attended the meeting armed with statistics. Stop the Chop was created to inform the public about the hazards created by the incessant helicopter tours over Manhattan.

“If you look at the S.E.C. filings for Saker Aviation, which are all public records, last year they paid New York City $2.8 million in concession fees for the heliport,” said Neuschatz, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “That’s .0003 of New York City’s $78 billion budget. This has made our lives a living hell.”

C.B. 1 plans to contact the Environmental Protection Agency to get tests performed on air quality in the city. The board will also be reaching out to the mayor’s office and the city council, requesting they take action against Saker Aviation and the helicopter tour companies.

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