Are Tourist Helicopter Operators Breaking Their Deal?

Brooklyn Heights resident/BHB reader Drew Burchenal is sure that that helicopter tour operators are not adhering to their deal with the city to not fly over Brooklyn. He’s posted a video to YouTube (his first, along with our coverage, accelerated action last year) showing alleged infractions. See it and read his letter to NYS Senator Daniel Squadron and NYC Councilmember Steve Levin after the jump.

Hello Sen. Squadron and Council Member Levin,

First I want to thank both of you for your efforts in dealing with the helicopter traffic over BBP and Brooklyn Heights. I was pleased to see news reports that pilots who stray from the approved flight path will be fined. But the fact that only two pilots have been fined up until now seems ridiculous. Anyone that lives in the neighborhood or spends time in the park can tell you that nearly every helicopter that leaves the DMH flies directly over piers 5 and 6 in the south end of the park. I just returned from a walk through the park. In the course of 10 minutes I saw 5-6 helicopters leave the DMH. Everyone took the exact same route:

Over the end of pier 5, across the middle of pier 6 skirting the southern tip of Atlantic, flying along the southern edge of Columbia St and then finally cutting across the container port towards the Statue of Liberty. (You can see some video we shot today here:

Isn’t that a violation of the agreed flight path? Will these pilots be fined? Who is responsible for tracking and fining the pilots? How are they tracked? Clearly if the DMH is responsible for tracking the pilots there is a HUGE conflict of interest. They fought against any changes in the flight plans, and now we are expecting them to enforce them? That seems ridiculous. If I call 311 and tell them about the helicopters they just log a complaint. Shouldn’t they be asking for some sort ID so that those pilots can be fined? There needs to be someone other than the DMH operator who is responsible for enforcing the flight path, because the current enforcement is a joke. I urge you to spend some time on a sunny weekend down at the park. It will only take a few minutes to see that the flight plans are routinely ignored.

The thing is, as long as these flights are allowed to fly east of Governors Island, there are going to be issues. It is a tight corridor, and whether they fly over the park or 500 feet off the shore line the effect is the same. Why do they need to fly east of Governor’s Island. Wouldn’t it be more logical for them to fly west of it, which is a straight shot to the Statue of Liberty? As we move into spring, the number and frequency of the flights is only going to increase. I urge you to find a REAL resolution to the matter before the warm weather arrives.


Drew Burchenal

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  • Johnny

    Thank you Drew for your effort

  • Hope

    Mr. Burchenal,

    Thank you for this letter. Councilmember Levin’s office has followed-up with EDC and alerted them to the situation. Hopefully, they will rectify the situation immediately. With the warm weather coming, it is Councilmember Levin’s sincere hope that everyone will be able to enjoy Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn Heights residents will have some peace this year!

    Please feel free to contact us directly at (718) 875-5200 if you would like to discuss this issue over the phone. You can also email me hreichbach AT

    Hope Reichbach
    Office of Councilmember Stephen Levin
    Communications Director
    410 Atlantic Ave
    p (718) 875-5200
    f (718) 643 6620

  • jim

    maybe we should have a no fly zone enforced by the UN….

  • GHB

    I’ve got two words: rocket launcher

  • BH Resident

    Glad to see Mr. Levin’s staff weighing in. I wonder though — is there more that a City Council member can do than simply alert the EDC of the situation? Why not call Drew, ask for the tail numbers, and hold hearings in the Council and invite the offenders to testify? Just a suggestion — thanks all.

  • Heightser

    Drew – Thank you so much! As a WIllow Street dweller we are inundated with the noise. It’s just awful. We are hoping for a less noisy spring this year than last.

  • Ari

    Don’t even want to imagine how much worse this will get as the weather warms up and demand and the number of illegal flights goes up.

    Can’t complaints be also lodged with the FAA concerning them breaking flight rules regarding vectors and flight paths/plans? (Are they even breaking any?)

    Maybe since BPP is now a “crown jewel” of the city, the negative impact to the precious park could be argued. (Hey it worked on the West Side didn’t it?)


  • drewb

    Ari, we have been told that these flights take place below the altitude threshold for the FAA, and therefore the FAA has no jurisdiction. This is the problem with the flights. Apparently there is no gov’t agency overseeing what these guys do. We are relying on them adhering to arbitrary guidelines that they agreed to. But there is no real way to enforce the guidelines.

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    Look, never mind the noise; helos over the heights are a severe DANGER. The helo industry has a really bad record of bad main
    tence, wrong parts and use of conterfeit parts in their aircraft.
    You dont want to even THINK what a helo accident would cause in the heights. And the helos are too low for autogyration to save
    a craft, or lives on the ground. There are FAR safer aircraft
    technology which can land very safe. Just google “Charles Zimmerman” and look at his designs, which were deep sixed
    to some reason the fed govt will not disclose.Helos are NOT
    winged aircraft they cannot glide. When that central bolt fails or a rotor fails, helos have all the areodynamics of a BRICK. Think about the amount of FUEL on board a Helo….Good Luck….

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    Anyone intersted in the helos over neighborhoods should go to
    two web sites:

    Both these groups have been in business foryears and at the forefront of the fight against all the things the heights is now

    The first round of anti helo organizations were in the mid 90’s
    and they found that NOTHING the industry did was a sincere
    attempt to deal with the problems they caused,

  • Eddy de Lectron

    Jef once again, helicopters are rotary winged aircraft. look it up. There is no set height for autorotation, it also depends on airspeed.
    Helicopters use fuel that is more like kerosene not nearly as volatile as gasoline. No form of transportation is totally safe, the chances of someone being killed or injured on the ground by a falling helicopter are astronomically small; One is far more likely to be killed in an auto accident. Does that mean no one should cross the street or ride in a car. Why do you find it necessary to engage in this idiotic fear-mongering?

  • Demonter

    Choppers, choppers everywhere…
    You don’t like it?
    They don’t care!

  • Claude Scales

    Demonter: When I was on Army active duty (1971-73) I knew a guy who had been a chopper pilot with the 101st in Viet Nam, and who had two awards of the Purple Heart, but only one visible scar: a small one just above his heel where he’d caught a piece of shrapnel. My company commander asked him what the other one was for. He said he had an engine malfunction and had to make a hard landing, which gave him hemorrhoids.

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    Jet fuel isnt gasoline want to know how dangerious non gas fuels can be? look at hundreds of leakage and crash incidents…To compare rotary wing with fixed wing dangers IS apples and orianges.

    We went all through this at last week’s class..any sane addressing of the issue(s) has to deal with the realities of actuial helo crashes
    in neighborhoods and dense populated commercial areas. There
    will alway we the poorly informed and thoose who seek to cloud the issue who attempt to cloud the public airways with factiods. The helo industry spokesmen are famious for this. The helo fans are famious for this. Neither should be serously listened to.
    You want actuial facts of what REALLY occurs in a helo major
    system failure/serious imparment. If you want to know what
    actuialy occurs you can start by speaking to serious scientists and safety concern types like the ones at the two web sites I listed.

    Helos are marvels of aircraft engineering, advanced construction and well materials science which would be impossible 20 years ago.

    The helo industry is populated by some of the highest integrity
    people you will ever meet.

    But there is, and has always been a less that reputable element
    who’s activities would be in any field disquieting.

    But if the field involves hundreds or thousands of pounds of fuel
    in a less than well maintaintained device who’s airworthyness moment to moment depends on many many critical installations of parts and fine tuning, all of which is overhead-then less than reputable types in an industry is intolerable-

    short inaccurate remarks dont address real issues.

    I suggest EVERYONE thinking about noise do so, but only AFTER
    PROPERLY UNDERSTANDNG the SAFETY issue. start by viewing the two sites I mentioned. Short inaccurate remarks simply muddy
    the waters on critical publis safety concerns.

    And Charles Zimmerman is still a good guy

    And so is Billy Lee Reilly…..
    children’s heads….

  • Jef

    I cant stand these helicopters, the noise is horrible.
    Govenors island was to be peaceful, not with the air traffice.

  • kcgrace

    I live near the north end of BBP in DUMBO. I have called several times to complain in the last two weeks. As soon as the weather improved, the flights started again up the east river over the Brooklyn Bridge. Certainly ruins the nice atmosphere in the park- the noise is overwhelming!

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    At least ALSO focus on the safety issue folks….

  • ujh

    Drew Burchenal needs to get a grip on reality and facts. Apart from demonstrating noise, which is real enough, if he wants to show that sightseeing helicopters are flying above Brooklyn Bridge Park or Brooklyn Heights proper, he should be taking his videos from the Brooklyn Bridge, so that the flight path can be assessed correctly.