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Governor Hochul vetoed a bill Thursday proposing a significant reduction to non-essential helicopter flights over New York. In response, State Senator Brad Hoylman says that he “will be introducing legislation to close the West 30th Street heliport in the Hudson River Park,” adding, “The Governor has left us no choice.”
The bill, sponsored by State Senator Hoylman, aimed to ban non-essential helicopter use and create a pathway for legal action against those creating unnecessary noise and air pollution.
Hochul — who is shown to regularly use the W30th Street and E34th Street helipads in her travels — stated in a memo explaining the decision: “Regulation of aircraft and airspace is primarily a federal responsibility, and federal law significantly constrains the State’s ability to legislate in this area,” echoing comments from previous city council hearings around the inability for New York’s legislature to prevent the many West Side helicopters that originate from New Jersey without federal legislation.
“Recent federal case law makes clear that non-federal actors must carefully consider how state and local restrictions interact with federal laws governing aviation and must be attentive to federally mandated processes for enacting policy in this area,” she added. “Certain elements of this legislation run counter to the federal scheme regulating New York’s airports and airspace. Therefore, I am constrained to veto this bill.”
Hoylman’s office told Gothamist in response: “There’s no reason that there should be a heliport in a park, which causes a great deal of noise and disturbance and is unnecessary,” he said. “The millionaires and billionaires can take the Long Island Rail Road like the rest of us.”
Hoylman told W42ST: “I’m extremely disappointed by the Governor’s veto of our Stop the Chop Act, the first major state legislative effort to address the ill-effects of helicopters. The noise, pollution and health impacts of tourist choppers is only growing for West Siders and across Manhattan. In fact, just yesterday, I released a report that found an average of 165 helicopters fly over Manhattan each weekend, nearly half of which originate from New Jersey.” He added that his office planned to move ahead with action to close the West Side heliport.
It’s likely that debates over the issue will continue, as recent data cited 311 helicopter noise complaints as second only to rodent-related gripes among New Yorkers and even topping the list for Manhattanites (Bloomberg). The New York City Council held a special hearing with the Economic Development Corporation last week, in which council members described the volume of complaints as overwhelming. “We’re talking about almost 26,000 complaints in 2021 – this is completely unacceptable,” said Council Member Ari Kagan at the time.
For now, community advocacy groups like Stop the Chop NYNJ and Hoylman, as well as City Council Member Gale Brewer — who has introduced her own legislation hoping to curtail noisy sightseeing helicopters — will continue to push for a quieter Midtown.
Said Hoylman: “In the new legislative session in Albany, I plan to redouble my efforts to limit chopper flights over our communities.”