BHB reader drewb, who has frequently and helpfully commented on the helicopter noise problem, wrote to State Senator Daniel Squadron, and has received a reply which provides useful information and a guide to making effective complaints. The full text of the letter follows the jump.
Thank you for contacting me regarding helicopter traffic over Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn Heights. I appreciate your vigilance in alerting us about ongoing helicopter concerns, so that we can continue to push for more effective rules and better enforcement.
I contacted the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) about the concerns raised in your letter, including your concern about helicopters over Buttermilk Channel. As you are aware, I have been pushing hard for protection from helicopter noise, including working to implement new restrictions on tourist flights, creating a 311 protocol that allows the community to effectively track complaints and pushing for an enforcement tool that gives teeth to the new rules.
In your letter you ask several important questions that I address below:
1) Isn’t flying over Brooklyn piers a violation of the agreed flight path? The protocol I helped create last spring prohibits tourist flights over Brooklyn altogether, as well as prohibiting noisy “short flights” and establishing specific paths over the Hudson River that tourist flights must take. More recently, the City established a new tourist flight path over Buttermilk Channel, between Governors Island and Brooklyn. Based on your letter, we are raising concerns about this flight path with EDC. If they were flights over Piers 5 and 6, that would be a violation of the restrictions we imposed, as tourist helicopters are at no point allowed to fly over the parkland.
2) Who is responsible for tracking and fining the pilots? How are they tracked? Saker Aviation is EDC’s lessee at the heliport and manages its five tour operators. In conjunction with EDC, Saker Aviation has three ways of tracking helicopters for compliance. First, Saker looks at the flight logs: if a helicopter was in the air for fewer than twelve minutes, it will have been in non-compliance, as the protocol established last year eliminated short tours. Second, EDC looks at the 311 data and then asks Saker to check the flight path of helicopters that were in the air when calls are reported. Third, Saker takes a random sample of tourist flights and looks at the flight path for compliance.
At the end of each month, EDC and Saker release a monthly compliance report to elected officials. I share the information contained in that report with the community.
3) If 311 is called they just log a complaint. Shouldn’t they be asking for some sort of ID so that those pilots can be fined? Because the 311 system for helicopters lacked verifiability, I fought to have it upgraded: beginning April 8th, the helicopter 311 system will produce a reference number so that you will be able to look up whether your complaint was found to be in compliance or noncompliance. If you are able to identify a tail number of a helicopter during your call to 311, that is very helpful because Saker will be able to check that exact helicopter’s path for compliance.
I hope these details are helpful to you. I am continuing to push for more comprehensive, more effective rules and enforcement.
Your input regarding helicopter noise is incredibly valuable and I hope that you will continue to keep my office updated – as well as log your complaints with 311. Please feel free to contact Alex DeLisi in my Brooklyn office at 718-802-3818 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions.