Locals Call for Total Ban on Tourist Helos Over Brooklyn Heights

A total ban on tourist helicopter flights over New York City is the only way to resolve the noise and safety issues these flights cause, according to elected officials and local residents who gathered at Pier 6 on a gloomy, drizzly (and therefore blessedly chopper-free) afternoon. Previous attempts to restrict flight paths so as to lessen the noise impact on Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Red Hook have failed because, as speakers noted, the East River is too narrow to provide sufficient distance between the choppers and Brooklyn to mitigate the noise. Video added. Watch after the jump.

(l-r) NYC Councilmember Steve Levin, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler and NYS Senator Daniel Squadron ponder the ear sign protesting helicopter noise over Brooklyn Heights

Rep. Nadler said that elimination of tourist flights would not negatively affect the City’s tourist industry because “no one comes to New York to take a helicopter ride.” He said the money spent on such rides would be better spent on shows, restaurants, and shopping. Sen. Squadron said relatives visiting Brooklyn had been appalled by the noise, which ruined visits to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Rep. Nydia Velazquez noted that views of the City skyline as good as could be seen from a chopper were available from Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Perhaps the most poignant remarks came from a Vietnam veteran and Red Hook resident, who said the constant helicopter noise was causing him to have flashbacks. Others who spoke included Assemblywoman Joan Millman, City Council Member Steve Levin, and Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton.

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  • DrewB

    Wish we could have been there. Sounds like they are taking a strong stand. It will be interesting to see how the City and the EDC respond.

  • jim

    This is so provincial and easy for the politicians to cater to a smnall constituency. The “crowd” seems sparse and representative of a small part of the community.

    And more importantly as for people not coming to NYC to go on a helicopter tour, I agree, they don’t, but that is not the point. It’s called incremental economic activity. Once here some tourists do decide to go on one, so it creates additional activity and returns to the city, I doubt instead of going on this ride many would chose to go to another broadway show rather they would just spend less as there would be less things to do in NYC…

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    This is NOT only a noise issue. Its a public safety issue. Helos at
    altitudes below which they can safely recover from system problems is something no one should have to live with. There have been DOZENS of crashes and near crashes over heavy
    populated urban areas. The Heights/downtown is simply too
    dnesly populated for the kind of overflight activity we now have.

  • Ben

    There is so little added value from helicopter tourism. The helipads should be used for emergency and police only. Anyone visiting the city would easily spend that additional money on a boat ride, a show or eating out.
    Additionally, the industry is really only self regulated. I don’t trust them with NYC security when they clearly only care about their profits. No one from any of the tour companies has made a public comment, and that’s because they know their stance is indefinable.
    No one talks about the possibility that people WILL start sueing the city for the mismanagement of the helipad. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there was a lot of backroom dealing that has gone on. I guarantee that costs the city more than what these businesses bring in.

  • Johnny

    Jim, this was the tip of the iceberg, the weather did not help to gather a huge crowd. This issue is about quality of life for thousands of residents decreased by some happy few and greed

  • Ari

    Too bad it was raining.

    At least we’ll have a reprieve from them all week long.


  • Jef

    get rid of these choppers once and for all, it ruins the quality if life in these neighborhoods and makes visiting the parks un beareable.

    after the crash over the hudson river, they should have been banned from then.

    you would think out mayor would ban them, but he is an idiot.

  • Gerry


    Do you think that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is an idiot?

    Bloomberg is a lot of thinks but he is NOT an Idiot the guy is a genious has and IQ of 160 as I undersatnd it .

    And due to Bloombergs hold on crime in NYC the mess that Rudy G. cleaned up I can park my car on Montague Terrace each night.

    Mayor Bloomberg is not an idiot.


  • gc

    Many thanks to our representatives for their efforts to ban the tourist helicopters! Keep up the good work!!

  • God

    Get a life.

  • Heightser

    Are you there God, It’s me Heightster.

    It’s a good thing our elected officials are taking this issue seriously. The noise is horrible. You must not have the great fortune to live close enough to be effected by the deafening noise. You are missing out on a great view, but consider yourself lucky if you don’t have to listen to it all the the time.

  • Knight

    Heightster, I would guess that God is above the noise … literally … although all that noise between us could explain a few unanswered prayers of late!

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    Bloomberg is sort a specialized type of mattoid. His perceptions and priorties are often a significant variance from what the average American would recognize as normal. He has well, gaps, in his perceptions. So that something that almost every average normal Americans would find objectonal and really dangerious he
    doesn’t recognize as a hazard or danger. He is simply insensitive to many areas of legitimate very serious concerns.

  • JAFO

    Someone call the Waaa..mBuLance.. Heightster and Knight need emergency service!!

  • Eddy de Lectron

    Here are a few more possible solutions:

    1. installing GPS tracking on tour, commuter and traffic helicopters that way there could be a definitive record of every choppers flight path. There could also be a realtime web accessible map showing their positions. This would make enforcement of flight paths a cinch. The technology already exists, available as “off the shelf” systems. The cost should be easy for the companies to absorb.

    2. Limit the time traffic helicopters are allowed to hover over an area. I would think 2-3 minutes would be sufficient to assess and tape most traffic snarls.

    3. Require all helicopter fleets (including police) to upgrade to quieter aircraft. Current designs are much quieter than the majority decades old aircraft now flying around the city. Of course this is an expensive option but given a realistic time line say 3-5 years is perfectly doable.

  • epc

    W/R/T #1 – Someone told me that the radar tracks are available which can show the overflights by both DMH flights as well as those originating upriver (I think from 34th St but possibly LGA?), unfortunately I don’t have any further information on how to get that data (it’s not realtime, delayed several days but still useful to aggregate the tracks to show flightpaths. You are extremely unlikely to get realtime flight tracking data as a member of the general public).

    I’m still trying to get people to enter data into http://bit.ly/bkhelihell (the corresponding report is http://bit.ly/bkhelidata) though the number of entries are at best once or twice a week.

    The thing to do with the traffic copters is to convince the local TV stations to pool their money and set up a robotic camera on top of the Gehry building or one of the WTC buildings when they’re completed, would be far cheaper in running costs and insurance than having a helicopter hovering over Brooklyn Heights. Alternately hammer at the producers as to why they think a live TV shot is required of the latest Cadman Plaza traffic jam when anyone who’d be reasonably affected is already in their vehicle.

  • Heightser

    @JAFO – Where do you live?

    We are a block from the Promenade with a view of the city. We literally went from peaceful living for 12 years, to feeling like we live in a war zone, over night. I am not a complainer and understand what comes with urban living. That is exactly why we have chosen Brooklyn Heights. But the helicopters are completely unreasonable. I have traveled all over the world and have never thought about seeing a city from a helicopter. It a bizarre and unnecessary way to see a city and we simply should not allow it.

  • Knight

    Heightser, I wasn’t going to respond to JAFO. He was up way past his bed time and made a couple of meaningless posts on this thread and another. Seems like he needed someone to talk to but really had nothing to say.

  • Linda

    I totally agree with you. I also live one block from the Promenade and I cannot read a book in my own living room most summer weekends because of the helicopters overhead. It makes me crazy.

  • Linda

    I know a few people with IQ’s in the 160’s who might also be geniuses but lack common sense.

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    @ eddy -your suggestions are exactly correct and a welcome focused coherent offering of good solutions. Which has been lacking is almost all of the posts on the subject. There certainly
    IS fully developed very accurate “off the shelf” technology which would reduce this problem at least 60-70%

    But he DANGER factor of overflights. Is stiil the center of my concerns-it has to be just lok at the crashes and near crashes in
    densly populated areas all over the country.

  • Jeffrey j Smith

    Many neighborhood assoiciations, elected officals and public advocates are simply not thinking clearly on this subject. The focus should be the danger.

    Why aren’t ANY of the (very well off) neighborhood associations or wonderful elected officials going into FEDERAL COURT to seek restraining order on the helo activity? They’re all lawyers, or
    are WELL legally represented…why isnt any of the hundreds and hundreds of attorneys who are Heights residents doing ANY pro bono on this? They dont know how to bring an action? They dont have a free moment?

    Unless there is SERIOUS legal action in this matter or strong legislation sucessfully passed..its all talk…

  • Ari

    There is a airport monitor site: http://www4.passur.com/lga.html

    This site is primarily to monitor inbound/outbound LGA flights in realtime as well as provide historical data for anytime in the past 3 months.

    You can choose a date/time, and pinpoint aircraft locations based on this data. While its primary use is for LGA traffic, it does show all helicopter traffic as well. Could be a decent way to show the traffic, frequency and locations of these flights.

    I’m pretty there are also pay sites that provide much more detail on air traffic archival data that would be useful to the cause in showing proximity and frequency of these annoying flights.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    @ epc, Radar does not cover low flying aircraft as the buildings and bridges obstruct the signal. Radar requires a clear line of sight between it and its target. Apparently as Ari pointed out; some realtime flight data is available however, it dose not show low flying aircraft, nor do the air traffic controllers see them (remember the aircraft that went off radar before they hit the WTC). As I said, GPS is the only way to reliably track low flying aircraft. The system could automatically alert the pilot and any governing agency if they are straying off course.
    With all respect a “robotic camera mounted on the new WTC or Gehry Building is ridiculous. How would such a camera cover the entire road system in the try state area (the area the traffic choppers cover). They would need hundreds if not thousands of cameras and still not be able to get every angle. The maintenance rights on such a system would far exceed the cost of a helicopter.
    Clearly you don’t drive as you would know many people use the traffic reports before they set out or while driving to avoid congestion (that’s why there are traffic reports, duh) Also the info from the news choppers is used to update GPS and internet traffic navigation info.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    @ Jeffrey j Smith, Thanks for the back, but honestly, I think you are grossly exaggerating the danger of helicopters flying over the city. Please show statistical proof of the “danger”. The way I see it one is far far more likely to be killed by a car or truck than a helicopter falling fro the sky. The air traffic overhead falls well within the margins of acceptable risk.

  • epc

    I just drove 3300 miles cross country, so don’t lecture me on driving.

    As far as a tower based camera…seriously? You thought I’m recommending that for all tri-state traffic?

    The radar track information I saw was from the FAA, I’m trying to find the original source (maybe whoever sent it to me is still reading this thread and can post the link?) I don’t recall what elevation it cut off, but it clearly showed the helo traffic to/from DMH as well as the traffic from midtown to EWR (I’m guessing, the graphic stopped around the Hudson).

    My personal take is that it’s the increase in total helo traffic, not just DMH, not just traffic choppers or NYPD that’s pissing people off. From what I’ve observed and tracked, it’s not just the increase in DMH flights, but the addition of what I’m guessing are commuter flights from midtown or LGA or somewhere (I haven’t been able to get a tail number) which were non-existent when I lived in Brooklyn Heights in mid-2000s and have grown steadily since I moved to DUMBO in 2007. Eliminate any one source of regular flights and complaints would drop dramatically.

  • Mike

    Why not banish all tourism?
    Noisey smelly polluting busses.
    Noisey smelly polluting boats, and ferrys.
    Do any of you have any idea what the street level ambient db level is in NYC? Can you spell HORRENDOUS?

    Considering the significant if not monumental issues this nation and the State fo NY faces..I recommend the representatives get back to washington asn solve some real problems, impacting real citizens in an important way.

    The technology some ofyou discuss is available and is being used for compliance.

    What if..someone starts doing air tours over the cityfrom New Jersey? Heads up..the EDC, nor the Mayor control Federal Airspace. such air tours are and should be allowed to continue all over the nation.
    Hawaii, Alaska, Las Vegas, LA
    Please, solve some real problems.

  • Mike

    Mr Smith,
    do you have any real supportable documentation from the NTSB, FAA or anyone that speaks to your concern over a city?

    Hate to be a hard ass but facts are usually a good starting point.

    Dangerous….so is my car, my motorcycle, my van, my seadoo, my skidoo, my parasail, mydrive to work, my flight to a vacation spot.

    A dumb mistake, poor maintenance, negligence in any one could kill you or others.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    @ epc The proposal for a tower camera is so technically unrealistic (even for just for covering the Heights), how am I supposed to know what you are thinking? BTW, I did a 15,700 mile cross country road trip, So maybe I can lecture, just a bit :p

  • Eddy de Lectron

    @mike Your argument “because there are bigger problems in the city/state no one should complain about the small ones” is ridiculous. No, you say?
    Then please tell us what is the one big problem we should all be focusing on? Okay then what are the top 10 that rise above all others to be ignored?
    Also, extreem exempels like”Why not banish all tourism?” are a very weak tactic.