New Deal Curtails Tourist Helicopter Flights But Jersey Side Unimpressed

By David Cruz

They criss cross the skies above New York Harbor affording great views of the New York City skyline. But they also cause a racket for the homes on this side of the river, over which they fly about every 20 minutes, all day long. But after years of complaints from residents and their elected representatives, a new deal has been struck that will dramatically reduce the frequency of these flights.

The deal calls for all Sunday tourist flights to end on April 1. Overall, flights would be reduced by 20 percent by June 1 and 40 percent by Oct. 1. By next January the plan calls for a 50 percent reduction. That’s about 30,000 fewer flights a year.

“It’s a quality of life issue here on the Hudson River, so we’re thankful that Mayor de Blasio has been a partner with Speaker [Vincent] Prieto and the hope is that residents of places like Jersey City, Weehawken, Hoboken will have a quieter time on their weekend and during working hours,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

The deal was announced jointly by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the helicopter tourism industry, but no one from New Jersey, leaving some people on this side of the river to wonder why they weren’t consulted.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t included,” said Congressman Albio Sires. “It seems like New York made the deal and New Jersey was left out, so I’m going to look into it.”

“… This so-called compromise actually entrenches the helicopter industry while doing almost nothing for New York City families, students, parkgoers and workers. …” said a statement from the president of Stop the Chop, a group formed to fight the flights.

“I’m looking to see what the exact final flight plans are and the total package but it looks like a step in the right direction,” added Sen. Bob Menendez today. “But we’re not going to stop from continuing to be vigilant and making sure that the Jersey side of those flight paths get the type of relief we want to see.”

When New Yorkers first complained about this, the Manhattan solution was to move the flight patterns over to the Jersey side, mainly Hoboken and Jersey City. Almost a year ago, activists and lawmakers here called for an end to this industry. The decision announced Friday falls considerably short of that goal.

“I think you need to be realistic and understand that an end to the industry probably wasn’t going to happen,” admitted Fulop. “There are a lot of tourists that enjoy those helicopter tours. It’s been going on for decades and an absolute stop was probably not realistic, ultimately.”

The industry will hire a monitor to make sure it complies with the new deal. Helicopter tourism employs more than 300 people and pays the city of New York close to $3 million in rent every year, which supporters say is a high price for the city to pay just for some peace and quiet for people living in New Jersey.