This bill passed with flying colors.
A proposed law that would allow New Yorkers to sue companies for excessive helicopter noise got the go-ahead from both houses of the state Legislature.
The state Senate and Assembly voted for the so-called “Stop the Chop” Act during the final days of the session in Albany last week, and the legislation would also tighten regulations for choppers using a heliport on Manhattan’s West Side, if signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul.
“Helicopters take off and land in Manhattan hundreds of times each week, flying over and near people’s homes, emitting high decibel noise, and guzzling fossil fuels,” said Manhattan state Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill’s sponsor in the upper chamber, in a statement Saturday. “Many New Yorkers can no longer work from home comfortably, enjoy a walk along the waterfront, or keep a napping child asleep because of the incessant noise and vibrations from non-essential helicopter use.”
The proposed law would let people sue helicopter companies if their whirlybirds cause an “unreasonable level of sustained noise at ground level” that interferes with their enjoyment of public parkland or private property.
Exempt are flights for purposes like construction, law enforcement and emergency services, news helicopters and flights for research, and aircraft following Federal Aviation Administration rules.
The move follows soaring numbers of complaints of the racket coming from the skies in recent years.
Helicopter noise complaints to 311 took off from 10,359 in 2020 to 25,821 in 2021, a nearly 150% increase, with most of the calls coming from Manhattan, according to the lawmakers behind the bill.
The airborne travel mode also spews an outsize amount of pollution into the air, noted a statement by the advocacy group Stop the Chop NY/NJ.
“This landmark bill is the first legislative effort in New York State or New York City to address the serious quality of life, health, climate and economic impacts of this unnecessary polluting industry. It is time the small group of profiteers pays for their negative externalities,” the advocates said.
There are three heliports in Manhattan, two controlled by the city’s Economic Development Corporation at Wall Street and E. 34th Street.
Sightseeing tours are limited to using the Downtown Manhattan Heliport at Pier 6 and can’t fly on Sundays or at night.
The third one at W. 30th Street, officially dubbed the “VIP Heliport,” is owned by the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversees the riverfront park and is run by a 13-member board appointed by the governor, the mayor, and the Manhattan borough president.
The West Side landing is currently mostly used for commuter flights, offered at a premium by companies such as Blade, which would still be allowed to operate out of there under the proposed law.
The bill would codify exactly what kinds of flights can and can’t use the facility and make it easier for the state to enforce the rules without having to rely on federal regulators.
Sightseeing flights that don’t follow the city’s rules or depart from outside the Five Boroughs would be banned from the facility, along with photo or video excursions that aren’t run by a licensed film, TV, photo, or production company.
Still allowed are the same exemptions as with the lawsuit section of the bill, such as police and news choppers and those trips following rules and routes set by the FAA.
Hochul’s press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said the governor will review the legislation.
Many flights that are banned in the Empire State can still take off and land just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, and larger restrictions would require change in Washington.
Pilots sometimes just flout existing federal law, such as one guy who made an unauthorized landing in a vacant lot in the middle of Brooklyn last November.
Loud helicopter noise has been a headache for locals for years, especially for residents at the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts, and lawmakers across all three levels of government have tried to restrict the aircraft through legislation.
A 2019 act in Congress by Rep. Carolyn Maloney seeking to forbid non-essential flights over the Big Apple failed to gain traction among her colleagues in the House. The East Side pol introduced another proposal last month to form a commission that would come up with a plan to cut back the number of pleasure flights.
Manhattan Council Member Gale Brewer in April put forth a bill banning sightseeing copters from taking off at city-owned facilities if they cross a certain noise threshold.