Council member Gale Brewer has set her sights on removing helicopters from the skies over Manhattan. In a letter this evening (Tuesday), Brewer formally urged New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams to chop the West 30th Street Heliport and its “deafening noise” from Hudson River Park. Meanwhile BLADE, the main operator from the helipad, agrees with cutting the annoying tourist flights above Manhattan — but says their 24/7/365 operation offers medical service and from 2024 will utilize quiet, electric and emission-free aircraft.
“I have spent almost 15 years as a Council Member and the Manhattan Borough President working to curtail the noise and health issues that helicopters bring to the residents of Manhattan,” Brewer said in her letter. “I write to urge you to close the West 30th Street Heliport that is located in Hudson River Park.”
The new Chair of Manhattan Community Board 4, Jeffrey LeFrancois, supported the views of Brewer. “A heliport is an incongruous park occupant. The pollution emitted and noise generated by helicopters alone is reason to eliminate the heliport at 30th Street inside Hudson River Park,” he said this evening. “Manhattan Community Board 4 looks forward to finally saying goodbye to this park interloper, expanding public space, and bringing some peace and quiet to the west side.”
The heliport has been a contentious issue with residents of Hell’s Kitchen, Hudson Yards and Chelsea — and the flights have annoyed many New Yorkers including Brewer’s constituents on the Upper West Side. The New York Times reported in October 2021 reported that noise complaints had tripled compared to the same time in the previous year. Last summer, the New York Post reported that helicopter noise was ruining performances at Shakespeare in the Park.
But in a statement this morning (Thursday), BLADE, the main operator from the west side heliport pointed out that their business is not all about passengers. BLADE spokesperson Taína Borrero said: “The West 30th Street Heliport is a critical piece of transportation infrastructure used for the transport of human organs by BLADE’s MediMobility division and it will be transformed by the arrival of quiet, electric and emission-free aircraft starting in 2024. The West Side heliport is the only heliport in New York City open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This is of critical importance as it is available at any moment with the availability of dedicated aircraft to provide local hospitals with cost-effective, rapid movement of organs and transplant teams to improve patient outcomes — in addition to other emergency services that save lives.”
Borrero added: “Closure of this heliport will result in the diversion of 100% of air traffic to both East Side heliports, resulting in a concentration of aircraft noise in Manhattan. In the interim as there is a transition to quiet aircraft, BLADE is committed to minimizing the impact of noise for our footprint of helicopters in New York City, in addition to working with the Hudson River Park Trust to facilitate the transition to a quieter landing zone.”
Brewer also addressed her complaints in the letter to Rick Cotton, the Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “I chaired a Task Force on Helicopters as a Council Member and then one with New Jersey and Manhattan elected officials as the Borough President. We forced the industry and the Mayor to make some route changes but tourism and non-essential helicopters that originate in New Jersey continue to fly over Manhattan; and tourism helicopters fly out of the Downtown Heliport in Manhattan,” said Brewer. “We want all of this helicopter activity to stop.”
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The former Borough President was clear that she wanted “the one heliport located in a park” closed. “Parks and helicopters are not meant for co-location. This heliport focuses on transportation for customers going to airports and out of town. I have been at events near the heliport and the noise is deafening and the health concerns from fuel are real,” she said.
Brewer told W42ST this evening: “Last year as Borough President I hosted yet another press conference at the 30th Street heliport in Hudson River Park with NYC and NJ elected officials to protest helicopters taking off from NJ and flying over Central Park. While there, helicopters landed and we could smell and breathe in the fuel and hear the loud noise. It was clear that the heliport did not belong in the park.”
BLADE promotes 5-minute commutes to JFK and Newark at a price of $195 for a one-way trip. They also run regular services during the summer to and from the Hamptons.
Rob Wiesenthal, a New Yorker and former Sony Corporation media executive, launched BLADE in 2014 as a way of bringing technology to helicopter travel. “I wanted to leverage crowdsourcing mobile users to make short-distance aviation more affordable,” Wiesenthal said in a 2016 interview with W42ST, “and to bring back a greater sense of service, detail, and adventure to flying. I like the fact that everything in New York City is moving west.”
BLADE spokesperson Borrero commented: “We believe that tourism helicopters that take off from New Jersey and Westchester and bus people into New York while disregarding noise abatement rules, altitude rules, flight route rules, and curfews should cease to operate — but closing the west side heliport will NOT solve that problem. BLADE will work to engage key officials in the Mayor’s Office to push back on any efforts to close the West Side heliport. We look forward to working with our elected and government officials and members of the broader community to come up with solutions to current noise complaints.”
This story was updated at 7.45am, February 2, after a response from BLADE. We have asked for comments from Hudson River Park Trust, and the local council member for the area, Erik Bottcher. We will update the story with their responses.