City Council legislation could ground New York’s tourist helicopters and cut hundreds of jobs from the Downtown Heliport.
And, according to the helicopter tourism industry, none of the council members who sponsored the bill or their staffers have taken a trip down to Pier 6 to experience the noise for themselves.
“I think it’s ridiculous, these kinds of things have been brought up in the past, of course, no one wants to lose their job,” said Captain Ryan Becze of Brooklyn. “[If a city council member walked in right now] I’d tell them they should go for a ride … jobs for a lot of people are at stake.”
The legislation, introduced last Thursday by Council Members Carlos Menchaha, Margaret Chin and Helen Rosenthal, aim to limit the “loudest and most polluting” helicopters that plague the waterfront communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement that her office “has received far too many complaints from people who are suffering from hearing loss, cardiovascular problems and mental health issues as a result of helicopter noise in their neighborhood.”
Spokespersons from Menchaha, Chin and Rosenthal's offices did not respond to on-the-record comments.
“There isn’t a single person I know in Battery Park City who doesn’t complain about them,” said Harriet Zellner, an economist who says she keeps noise machines in her home to drown out the sounds.
“The issue of employment seems to me to be bogus,” Zellner added, adding that tourists can see sweeping views from 1 World Trade Center and the Empire State Building. “There will be ways to gain employment as long as the demand is there.”
After the legislation was introduced last week, a group called Helicopter Matters launched a pro-helicopters campaign, citing an independent study in 2010 that the industry provides $30 million a year in direct revenue to the city. The organization cites 311 complaints that just 161 of the 300,000 noise complaints in 2014 were helicopter-related.
About 400 to 500 people work at the Downtown Heliport. Helicopter Matters claims that if the industry shut down, pilots, security, ticket agents and other staff stuff would lose their jobs, and the city’s private helicopter industry might not be able to survive without the tourism support.
New York City is on track to host more than 58 million tourists this year after 2014's record-breaking 56.4 million visitors and $61.3 billion economic impact, according to NYC & Co and the mayor's office.
Helicopter tours are offered by five companies that all operate out of lower Manhattan’s Pier 6. Metro took a tour provided by Helicopter Flight Services on Wednesday, following the standard route around the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson, looping the George Washington Bridge and back.
It costs $224 per person for a 20-minute ride.