Stressed New Yorkers file record helicopter noise complaints

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Jose Martinez, The City, reports that helicopter complaints to 311 have soared with several thousand more reported through mid-November than were reported for all of 2019–7,758 complaints up to November 15, 2020, versus 4,400 for 2019. Martinez rightfully notes that the noise emanating from the helicopters make New Yorkers feel even worse, now that so many are cooped up in their homes. Martinez quotes one New York resident as saying the “noise just makes you crazy” and another saying that “I have wanted to run into the street screaming.” I want to stress that research has clearly demonstrated that noise is hazardous to mental and physical health–it is not “just annoying.” Rather, noise is detrimental to our well-being!

Martinez reports that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced a bill in the House to regulate helicopter noise, but we join in her frustration that there is no comparable bill in the Senate and  the Federal Aviation Administration has essentially ignored the problem. Let me add that the FAA has been negligent overall in curbing aviation noise, despite the growing body of evidence on the health hazards of noise.

New York City has regulations covering the city’s helicopter travel and the accompanying noises but neighboring states do not and their helicopters fly over our city. Martinez notes that Borough President Gale Brewer will be convening a task force next month to address tourist flights and has invited officials from New Jersey to join this task force. She will also explore helicopter use by the city’s police department and television stations. New York City had introduced legislation last July to amend the New York City’s administrative code to reduce noise by chartered helicopters, but it was put on hold due to the pandemic. I would hope that members of the City Council will be part of Ms. Brewer’s task force.

Considering the many hardships that New Yorkers are dealing with related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one might question why attention is being paid to the city’s helicopter noise problem. Let me point out again that noise serves to exacerbate the overall stress that we are now feeling. and this is definitely not good for our health.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Comments (11)

  1. Tom Ogden

    Chopper traffic over NYC is out of control. One of the worst hit locations is upper Central Park. This former oasis is under constant assault.

    Reply
    1. Marc Shivers

      Yes, between the helicopters and the ambulance and fire truck sirens, it’s impossible now to go for a quiet walk in even the remotest parts of Central Park. Such a waste.

      Reply
      1. Andrew Rosenthal

        Join us at Stopthechopnynj.org

        Reply
    2. Caroline Wood

      Also anywhere in the area around the Empire State Building. ESB regularly sponsors photo contests and awards Instagramers who charter FlyNYON helicopters to get shoe selfies and also dramatic ariel shots of the building.
      FlyNYON is one of several rapacious tour companies located outside NYC who buzz our city many times a day.

      Reply
    3. Peaceful Skies Coalition

      Upper Central Park is where the tourist helis do a loop in order for the passengers to take shoe selfies. Yes, that’s what we are giving up the serenity of our parks for. You might be interested in following us on Twitter, where we post daily on the NYC heli assault.

      Reply
    4. Andrew Rosenthal

      Tom. Join us at Stopthechopnynj.org

      Reply
  2. Danielle

    Whitestone is horrible too! It’s every single day! Torture!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Rosenthal

      Join us at Stopthechopnynj.org

      Reply
  3. Caroline Wood

    If you’re a NYer and want to help, please follow along on Twitter. Some folks Tweeting about this problem and trying to draw more attention to it are:
    @BanTheHellies
    @bikeloveny
    @nycisfine

    Reply
  4. Caroline Wood

    Also, sign the petition at:
    @StopTheChopNYNJ

    (Thanks!)

    Reply
  5. Melissa Elstein

    Please join the Stop the Chop NY/NJ coalition – we are a non-profit community group seeking to ban all nonessential helicopters (tourist, photography, commuters) in NYC and the densely populated NY Metropolitan area. Sign up for our newsletter, sign our petition, volunteer with us – links are on our new website: http://www.stopthechopnynj.org

    We also have links to proposed federal and local legislation, research studies, news articles (this article will be added) , and more.

    Download the Flight Radar 24 app (free one works fine) to see their flight paths, and from where the helicopters are departing. Currently, the majority of tourist helicopters are taking off from NJ airports, flying over NJ, up the Hudson River, crossing over the UWS, hovering and looping around the Central Park reservoir (often 3 simultaneously), across to UES, down to midtown to circle around the Empire State Building, eventually returning to NJ. Brooklyn, Governors Island and Queens also are negatively affected. (As an aside, how are these helicopter companies even allowed to conduct tours during this pandemic as multiple guests cannot be seated 6 feet apart in such a small cabin). We must also close all NYC heliports to nonessential helicopter use as well. We don’t need helicopter tours over NYC – it’s not worth the risks nor the damage they cause when there are plenty of other ways to take in the beauty of NYC.

    This is a noise pollution issue, environmental issue (these joyride helicopters run on fossil fuels), safety and security issue, health issue, and quality of life issue for thousands if not more. It is incomprehensible that this is still being allowed in 2020 in this densely populated city; putting residents and tourists at risk (many crashes have occurred over the years and we list them on our website), putting our buildings at risk with these low flying helicopters, polluting our air, stressing us out in our homes and parks which should be peaceful places. All this negativity for some photo ops that could be taken from the numerous observation towers around the city. If we created better transportation infrastructure there would be no need for commuter helicopters – one of the least environmentally friendly modes of transportation (especially egregious given our fossil fuel caused climate crisis).

    Please join our fight to end this madness once and for all, and protect our well-being and quiet our skies.

    Reply

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