U.S. authorities seek to ban Hudson River tourist trips
August 11, 2014 By The Associated Press
Aug. 11, 2014, Hoboken, N.J. - Tourists who want a bird's-eye view of the New York City skyline might be out of luck.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey joined local officials from
both sides of the Hudson River in Hoboken on Friday to call for a ban on
tourist helicopter flights.
Interrupted repeatedly by the buzzing sounds of
helicopters, officials said the flights are a threat to the quality of
life and public safety of waterfront residents.
"There's simply too much
helicopter traffic and not enough oversight," said Menendez, who said
the volume of flights has skyrocketed it recent years. A sightseeing
helicopter and a small aircraft collided over the river in 2009, killing
nine people. Another crash in 2011 killed an Australian tourist.
Officials have worked for more than a year with
the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the
busy Downtown Manhattan Heliport, as well as state and federal
officials, to try to solve the problem. But Menendez said the
conversations have gone nowhere, with constant finger-pointing.
Unless a solution is reached, he said, he'll
push for legislation banning the flights when the Federal Aviation
Administration's reauthorization comes up next year.
"Since the industry has been
unresponsive and the governmental agencies don't seem to have the
wherewithal to get this done, we will," he said.
EDC Spokesman Ian Fried said the city takes the
complaints seriously and is in discussions "to determine how we can best
address them and help alleviate this disturbance."
But he pointed to statistics showing complaints
about helicopters are down 80 per cent since changes were implemented in
2010. The majority now concern helicopters outside of the city's
jurisdiction, including emergency services, news and charter flights.
The FAA and New Jersey Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Residents along the waterfront complained of
constant noise loud enough to shake their windows, interrupt
conversations and keep them from using local parks.
Charles Wesoky, 70, of Weehawken, said that as
frequently as every 15 seconds, the flights pass by the home he moved to
to escape the noise of Manhattan.
"It's like being on a landing strip here in an airport," he said.
Jeff Smith, the vice-president of the Eastern
Regional Helicopter Council industry group, pointed to a recent study
the group commissioned that found the helicopter tourism industry
generates more than $33 million in economic activity each year and
supports hundreds of local jobs. He said the proposed changes would hurt
the local economy.
"Our helicopter owners remain committed to
working collaboratively with local officials to find reasonable
solutions that don't strip New York and New Jersey of hundreds of jobs,
millions of dollars in revenue and vital emergency response services,"
he said in a statement.