Helicopter-noise complaints soar in New York City
Noise complaints about helicopters flying over New York City are on course to reach a record level this year.
But helicopter industry leaders and public officials can’t agree on the reason.
Some blame a few city residents lodging the bulk of complaints. Others say the rise is caused by unregulated helicopter tours flying from New Jersey or a surge in flights to the Hamptons.
Federal and local officials can’t tell if the rise is tied to an increase in helicopter traffic because no one, including the Federal Aviation Administration, tracks how many flights pass over the city each day.
Annual noise complaints to New York City’s 311 service hovered around 1,000 in each of the past three years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of city data. At its current rate, the city is on track to receive more than 1,800 complaints by the end of this year.
Complaint hot spots include Midtown Manhattan, areas bordering Central Park and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. A significant part of this year’s surge is a rise in complaints close to the East 34th Street Heliport.
The heliport is owned by the city’s Economic Development Corporation. City officials say that there hasn’t been an increase in operations at the heliport. They believe the rise in noise reports, most of them anonymous, is driven by a small number of households filing multiple complaints.
However, almost half of the complaints in that area this year were made on weekends, when the heliport is closed.
Anthony Grubic, a leader of the local chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, who is based at LaGuardia Airport, said that, after reviewing the location of the complaints, a helicopter tour company based out of New Jersey was probably the cause.
New York City tightly controls helicopter tours that take off in the city. In 2016, the city cut the number of annual flights in half by imposing a cap of 30,000 tours a year. The city forces tour operators to use its heliport in lower Manhattan, and it restricts flights to staying over New York’s waterways.
Source: The Wall Street Journal