BHB Reader Speaks Chopper to Power

BHB reader Drew Burchenal is flippin’ mad about the constant flow of tour company helicopters flying over Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn Heights every day. We recently proposed a 4 hour quiet period and no night flights and Mr. Burchenal asks for at least reduction in flights in his letter if not a total ban.  The BHA also seeks a total ban. (Our final proposal will be based on your input so please go here to discuss.)

In a letter to State Senator Daniel Squadron, City Councilmember Steve Levin and others, Burchenal says, “The helicopters zoom right overhead like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. This community has worked for 20 years to get that park going and Mayor Bloomberg, with the help of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, ruined the whole atmosphere with the stroke of a pen.”

He also created a YouTube video of the crazy helicopter traffic to bolster his case. Read his full letter and see the video after the jump.

On April 1st, 2010 Liberty Tours started operating all their Helicopter Tours from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH). The impact was immediately apparent in Brooklyn. The skies above us turned into something out of a war film. You can often see 4-5 helicopters in the air, and another 5-6 idling on the pad. On a recent trip to the waterfront I observed helicopters descending and ascending at a rate of 1 every 45 seconds. Take a look at this video to see what I mean…

Every chopper in the area affects the historic Brooklyn Promenade. The tourist choppers are the worst because they fly up and down the waterfront and leave on such a regular basis. Their incessant roar makes conversation on the Promenade unbearable. Things are even worse at the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge Park. The helicopters zoom right overhead like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. This community has worked for 20 years to get that park going and Mayor Bloomberg, with the help of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, ruined the whole atmosphere with the stroke of a pen.

The narrowness of the river, between two densely packed landmasses, is an acoustic nightmare. The sound reverberates off the tall buildings in that tight corridor and can be heard throughout Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The roar from these choppers arrives long before you see them and stays long after they disappear. The orientation of the heliport means pilots approach low and idle low over Brooklyn. The only way they can take off is to head straight at the promenade or the park. In short, the decision to move the flights here from Chelsea was misguided.

We’ve been told by Patricia Ornst at the EDC that the tax revenue is more important than our quality of life. I hope you value our well being more than that, and can find a solution. I urge you to ask Mayor Bloomberg to reinstate Mayor Giuliani’s Ban on Chopper Tours. We all know that tourists will come and spend money in this city with or without helicopter tours. If that is off the table, then reduce the flights to a small window during the day. The bottom line is this, no flight path along that East River corridor is acceptable. As long as tourist tours land at DMH, there are going to be noise issues in Brooklyn Heights, in Dumbo, on The Promenade, and at the new park. The only solution to the noise problem is a reduction in the number of flights.

Share this Story:

, , , , , , , , , ,

  • Drew Burchenal

    Thanks for posting my letter. Just a minor clarification on my position. I, like the BHA, would prefer a return to the Giuliani Ban on Tourist Choppers. However, after talking to Patricia Ornst at the EDC I doubt that will happen without some sort of lawsuit. So until we can ban all the flights, we need to reduce the daily sorties as much as possible.

  • epc

    Clearly, the thing we need to do is document how much tax revenue the city will lose by making the park unusable for the various commercial events which could be hosted there or at Empire Fulton Ferry due to the helio-storm.

  • nabeguy

    epc, easier said than done. The city administration right now is only concerned with the cash that’s on the barrel head, and not the barrel itself.

  • nabeguy

    BTW, a brilliant letter Drew.

  • Billy Reno

    I say we go to BB Park and spell out NO MORE HELLICOPTERS with our naked bodies!

  • Quinn

    Well, I’m sure I am the contrarian here, but all this complaining seems silly to me. We have all chosen to live in the largest and busiest city in the country. We have chosen to live on or near New York Harbor, one of the most active waterways in the world. And now people want to ground the helicopters? I think that’s unreasonable.

    Why not shut down BQE traffic, which I find loud and dirty? Why not insist the subway crawl along at 5 mph in the evenings so it doesn’t disturb my sleep? We have all willingly chosen urban living, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to try to ban one mode of transportation because you don’t like the sound. If peace and quiet is your priority, I don’t understand why you have chosen to live in NYC.

  • DrewBurch

    I understand that living in the city comes with certain expectations about noise. The BQE, The Subway, The Delivery trucks. That is all part of the infrastructure of the city that we live in. And you have to expect the occasional police or news chopper too. But the tourist choppers offer no benefit to residents of the city and create a nuisance for a huge number of citizens. Mayor Giuliani understood this and instituted a ban. Tourists still visited, the city survived. After the 2009 crash over the Hudson, numerous elected officials went on record in favor of reinstating the ban, which Bloomberg had reversed. Instead, all the traffic was diverted to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. Now that the choppers are concentrated in the narrow east river corridor the situation is further exasperated. They have managed to take the the new park, an intended refuge from the wilds of the city, and put it square in the flightpath of low charging choppers. Reversing the ban was a bad decision, moving all the choppers to Downtown Manhattan was just plain stupid.

  • Maggie

    I spend a lot of time down on the Promenade and just last weekend was thinking “Wow, there are a LOT of helicopters today.” Drew, do you have the people who live along the Promenade on board? There must be some pretty heavy hitters on those blocks. Those brownstones and co-ops ain’t cheap, and they can’t possibly be happy about this.

  • zburch

    No kidding Maggie, I have been wondering about that. Also the people that have moved into One Brooklyn Bridge. Those places are awfully pricey to have helicopters flying at window level all day. And what about DUMBO and the people working in Lower Manhattan? I am just so bummed. I love to sit on the Promenade and read the paper and was looking forward to doing so in the new Park and it sucks to do that now.

  • T.K. Small

    Thank you Drew for taking a proactive approach. Just this afternoon I realized that my computer which is completely voice-activated was having difficulty with the increased background noise. If I cannot dictate successfully, working is going to be that much more difficult.

  • fulton ferry res

    There will be a press conference at the heliport next week, put together by various local elected officials. A press release will be forthcoming very soon. Stay tuned.

  • Andrew Porter

    Isn’t there a City law about the minimum height at which helicopters can fly over inhabited areas? Are the helicopters flying over the Promenade and the ones flying east over DUMBO violating that law?

  • DrewBurch

    The problem is that here is no agency regulating the choppers. The FAA has no jurisdiction because they fly below the airspace that they control. This is one of the core problems with helicopters in the city. The EDC can impose flight quotas, flight paths and ceiling heights, but if the pilots don’t follow those rules there is no one to enforce them. 311 will no longer even take complaints about helicopters, they transfer you right through to the aviation control EDC. Patricia Ornst, the Aviation Director at the EDC, is an ally of the Helicopter Tour Companies. She is one of the people that made the decision to move the flights to the DMH, and has no interest in any criticism of that decision. So when citizens are annoyed by these buzzing menaces, they have no recourse other than contact elected officials.

  • Sticky

    I live in the north heights and this is just ridiculous. All day long it does sound like a warzone. I am all for the ban. Not to also stroke a sore wound, but didn’t anyone learn anything from 9/11 or the accident on the west side last year?

  • Jef

    Thank you for writing that letter. I have also been to the
    park and after about an hour we went home. The helicopters
    were just plain annoying. They took the tranquility out of
    being in a park. I don’t plan on returning to the new park if thats
    what is in store for us.

    They should not be allowed to fly over head, they are very distracting and really annoying.