Today’s news:

Heights residents fight tourist choppers

As this paper went to press, the Brooklyn Heights Association was set to meet with city officials over the helicopter tourist industry’s increase of traffic in their neighborhood.

The issue gained altitude in Brooklyn after the city’s recent decision to move the helicopter tourist industry from the West Side Heliport at West 30th to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport just across the East River from Brooklyn Heights.

The move of the tourist helicopter industry to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport stems from the Friends of the Hudson River successfully suing Air Pegasus, the operator of the West Side heliport last year.

Under the settlement, Air Pegasus agreed to limit to 12,500 helicopter flights during the 10-month period that ends March 31, 2010, and then the tourist flights will be phased out completely.

The heliport, which was the takeoff point for the helicopter involved in the fateful crash, will still be used for corporate charters and emergency flights.

In 2008, a total of 409,325 passengers took the helicopter rides from the 34th Street, 30th Street, and Downtown Manhattan Heliports.

About 300,000 are tourist passengers and 100,000 are corporate/charter passengers.

The move alarmed residents of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, who were already upset with the sounds of the helicopters flying over their neighborhood. Now they are also worried about safety issues from the influx from the tourism industry.

“Now that we know it (the tourism industry move) is definite, we want to know how far along the city is concerning signed leases, conditions of the leases and any regulations on the number of tourist flights operated,” said BHA President Judy Stanton.

Stanton said the BHA also wrote a letter to the city’s Economic Development Corporation to ask for a ban ofhelicopter tourism traffic flying above residential neighborhoods in New York City.

The BHA is also reaching out to Manhattan’s Community Board 1 and civic organizations in Lower Manhattan to see if there are other opposition groups.

Manhattan’s CB 1 recently passed a resolution urging the EDC to require that any contracts with operators of tourist helicopters include provisions that would impose substantial and enforceable penalties for excessive noise, pollution and or potential safety hazards for Lower Manhattan residential neighborhoods.

Additionally, the resolution calls for limiting times of operation and flight paths.

CB 2 District Manger Rob Perris said the matter hasn’t been formally broached yet by his community board, but does expect it to come up at future meetings.

EDC Spokesperson Dave Lombino said the agency relaunched a Helicopter Task Force to address concerns related to routes and noise throughout New York City.

“As the sightseeing flights at West 30th Street heliport are phased out, we’re going to be managing the capacity at the Downtown Heliport, balancing the community needs and safety,” said Lombino.

“We’ve been working and will continue to work with the FAA, helicopter operators and the several communities, including Brooklyn Heights, on noise mitigation issues,” he added.

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