Chopper Noise: Squadron Responds to Reader Complaint

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 if you have any further questions.

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  • drewb

    I think there is a an indication of a solution here. If the flight paths were rerouted to the other side of the Governor’s Island I think it would substantially reduce or eliminate the noise (and potential danger) from tourist flights in Brooklyn. This would allow the flights to continue, provide relief to brooklyn waterfront residents and not shift the burden to another residential community. It is a win for everyone!

    As you can see from the response above, your input matters. If you are affected by the helicopter traffic, write your elected officials and let them, know. Daniel Squadron and Steve Levin have been very involved in the issue and responsive to complaints. But the more they hear from their constituents, the more likely they are to work for change. So don’t just complain, complain to someone that can do something!

    Also now we have a way of holding helicopter pilots accountable for violating the existing flight path. Make sure to note the time, and if possible tail number, of the infraction. Call 311, log a complaint (with time and tail number), get a reference number and follow up. If we take action we can improve this situation. But you have to get involved to affect change.

  • drewb

    In case anyone wants to follow up with our neighborhood representatives you can contact them here:

    State Sen.Daniel Squadron,

    Council Member Steve Levin

  • epc

    Has anyone received a copy of the monthly compliance report? Curious what it contains.

    I’ve been running an open ended Google docs form collecting data about helicopter flights but I think that most of the data is from myself with contributions from a couple of other BHB readers (the form is at , the collected data is viewable at ).

    One thing I’ve pieced together is that one of the loudest regular flights is a white executive commuter helicopter which appears to be flying between East 34th Street and Newark. I have yet to catch the tail #. Would that be included in the DMH traffic reports or do they only cover takeoffs/landings from DMH? This flight flies downriver over the middle of the river, and up river along the Eastern shoreline.

  • drewb

    I believe that DMH will only be tracking flights departing from and returning to their location. You will note that all the official responses about flight paths refer specifically to “tourist flights”. I have yet to hear any elected official that is willing to take on the issue of commuter flights, news choppers or NYPD flights. Those flights seem to be off the table when we are talking about defined flight paths. There is nothing I’d rather do than figure out a way to stop the traffic choppers that hover over our building at 7AM or the commuters that hover over the neighborhood in the morning waiting to land at DMH. But apparently those are untouchable. If someone wants to spearhead that fight I’ll gladly add my voice.

  • drewb

    EPC that is good data, have you shared it with Squadron, Levin or other elected officials? That is the type of stuff they need.

  • epc

    I haven’t reached out to them specifically but several people contacted me in the past month and have looked at the data.

    I know that the form gets 100s of views per week but as I wrote earlier, most (I’d say 90%) of the entries are from me which doesn’t necessarily invalidate it but certainly skews the data towards where I live/work in DUMBO.

  • drewb


    I would encourage you contact elected officials and share your experiences with them. The more they hear from constituents the more likely they are to work for a change.

  • Michael

    Drewb and EPC,

    Thanks for the excellent work and the updates. I look forward to the new 311 complaint process and I will be contacting our representatives as well.


    About ten years ago I served on a Congressman-sponsored committee aimed at mitigating helicopter noise. While we met a number of times with a very congenial rep from the industry and pilots’ association, we got nowhere.
    Now, I am happy to note, there is real info being developed and the screws are finally being tightened on an irresponsible, run-away business.
    One main suggestion that was rejected at the time is a requirement that the choppers carry visible numbers so that perpetrators can be readily identified. Simple, but it was rejected out of hand. When you think about it, why the resistance, except so that the malefactors can continue to run free.
    Perhaps the good Senator can explore getting visible-from-the-ground signage on helicopters.

  • nabeguy

    Great proposal, Martin. But what are we to do when those numbers spell out NYPD? NFN, but the police choppers hovering over the harbor can be as obnoxious as the Channel 2/4/7 traffic news ones.

  • jim

    Thought all the helicopter noise complainers would appreciate this blogpost

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    The main consideration here, again, is the SAFETY ISSUE.
    If a helo has a major problem and its too low it has all the
    areodynmaics of a brick. DONT let any tech or political type tell you any different. There have been multiple helo crashes in
    dense populated neighborhoods world wide.

    This is a VERY dangerious situation currently

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    What would really work is if we can get some HD video of a helo
    dangeriously low or engaged in some of the VERY questionable
    behavior I have seen over the last 10 years. Then we should put
    the video on You Tube. Once it becomes public like this THEN
    we’ll see what the various helo industry and political types many of
    whom are part or connected to the current adminsitration can say
    to deny or minimize the REAL DANGER of what is going on.

    Want a real change? I suggest we first make the behavior which
    endangers us VERY public via the net.

  • TonyGooch

    What about the trafffic helicopter that hovered noisily over the East River for about 15 minutes this morning, roughly at the level of Clark St.?

  • Eddy de Lectron

    How about forcing traffic and tourist helicopter fleets to upgrade to modern designs that are much quieter.

  • jonw

    Has anyone thought about picketing outside the heliport? Since the city refuses to do anything to alleviate the situation it seems to me like it is up to the residents who are affected by the noise to do something. Let the tourists who are taking these helicopter tours know that they are ruining the quality of life of countless New Yorkers. I, for one, can no longer enjoy my back yard on the weekends and I am ready to take up arms or at least a big sign.

  • BP

    The problem is that the city does not do any of the monitoring. It is done by Saker Aviation, that runs the heliport. Huge conflict of interest. I’ve got a simple solution, require that helicopters dump their black box data into a system run by the city. Problem solved. Of course that will never happen, especially while the EDC is getting paid NYC tax dollars to “fix” the problem.

    Appears that the only solutions that work involve suing the city. That’s what shut down the west side heliport to tour companies.

    If the EDC was doing anything, we’d see at least one fine. I have not heard of even one going out, and I’ve logged calls to 311 where I’ve clearly seen tour helicopters flying over Brooklyn. Not the channel, but Brooklyn itself. I’ve left phone numbers and email addresses with my 311 calls and never has the EDC contacted me.