Chopper Stopper: Brooklyn Closer To A Deal On Helicopter Noise

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Business leaders, residents and lawmakers are nearing a compromise to limit the number of noisy helicopters that crowd the skies over New York Harbor.

The city's Economic Development Corporation has confirmed it is crafting an Air Tour Management Plan. A source says the new guidelines will restrict the number of choppers allowed to take off at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, between Broad Street and William Street on the East River.

The perpetual hum of helicopter propellers has become a literal headache for people who live in neighborhoods along the Brooklyn waterfront. Since April 1st, there's been a noticible increase in noise, largely because some helicopter companies have shifted operations from the 30th Street Heliport on the West Side to the Downtown Heliport, which sits opposite the Brooklyn Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

"I think they ought to be looking at everything. Eliminating them totally or limiting them significantly. A ten percent reduction wouldn't do it," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Last week, a team of activists and politicians held a news conference in front of the Downtown Heliport, calling for new regulations reducing the number of flights - and noise - which have become increasingly irritating to people in the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO neighborhoods.

George Prochnik is a writer from Fort Greene who recently published a book called "In Pursuit of Silence." He worries the constant vibrating din of helicopters could have physical and mental health effects for Brooklyn children.

"They're not learning English. They're learning noisy English as though from a single parent with a cleft palete. This slows down their whole ability to take in words. It can lead to different sorts of social isolation issues. One person even told me they suspected the spike in ambient noise in our society is a contributing factor to the rise in diagnoses of autism."

The EDC expects to announce its plan to restrict helicopter flights in a matter of weeks, not months.

Limiting the noise, though, may not be as easy as limiting tourism joy rides. PIX 11 News has learned a new helicopter company has plans to expand commuter flights from Manhattan heliports to area airports.

A posting on the website for East Coast Aviation says the company "will launch a new helicopter airline in 2010, providing business and leisure passengers with quick, convenient, and competitively-priced helicopter shuttle service between heliports and major international airports in New York City (NYC) and New Jersey (Manhattan, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport)."

So far, plans to limit chopper traffic over the East River only include the restricting of sightseeing flights, not airport commuter shuttles.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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