Helicopters overhead
Hoboken residents complain about noise, low flight patterns
by Carissa Barstis
Reporter Correspondent
Apr 21, 2013 | 10334 views | 7 7 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CHOP, CHOP – Helicopters from New York and from Kearny have caused complaints in various Hudson County towns. Mayor Dawn Zimmer had a response.
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Hoboken residents are used to having tourist helicopters overhead, but locals say they have noticed an uptick in the frequency of the craft that fly by lately.

Hudson Street resident Brian Wagner said recently that he noticed a significant increase in helicopter noise during the last weekend of March, when warm temperatures were finally breaking through the last of winter’s chill.

“I was in my apartment in the middle of the building, and a helicopter flew low and close,” said Wagner, a Hudson Street resident, last week. “The chandelier shook; the glass in the hutch rattled. It’s a disturbance that begins early in the morning, before 9 a.m., disrupting sleep and scaring the dogs. It goes on throughout the day and doesn’t seem to stop until after 10 p.m.”

Far from being a new nuisance in the metropolitan area, noise pollution from New York’s helicopter tour industry has affected residents along the Hudson and East rivers for years. In April 2010, New York City’s Economic Development Corp. succeeded in changing the flight paths of existing tourist helicopter routes, sparing Brooklyn, Midtown, and downtown Manhattan from the incessant buzz. Wagner believes some this re-routing could be partially responsible for the increase in helicopter traffic over Hoboken.
“It is only fair that they keep the noise on their side of the Hudson River.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
In addition, Jersey City and Bayonne residents complained earlier this year about copters from a Kearny-based heliport that were flying just above rooftops and trees. In February, the FAA pledged to specifically instruct helicopter pilots to fly at their maximum allowed altitude of 1,000 feet whenever air traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport permitted.

Like a freight train in the sky

Wagner and other residents along Hudson Street say that relief from the current helicopter-induced cacophony is rare. One resident, Julian Brigden, said she has had to purchase noise-canceling headphones so that he can get work done from his home office during the day.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Brigden said. “If they would only move the flight paths back over the river, that would be a significant improvement.”

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith filed a complaint in December about low-flying and noisy helicopters. In a Feb. 13 press release, FAA Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo said that “The Teterboro Flight Standards District Office has collaborated with Newark Air Traffic Control Tower, as well as helicopter operators that frequent the Kearny heliport, in order to address Mayor Smith’s concerns. Both pilots and air traffic controllers have demonstrated a constructive attitude on the matter and initiative on revising the current procedures.”

“Since the FAA response, we have had less complaints about helicopter noise,” said Joe Ryan, Bayonne’s Public Information Director, last week.

Wagner would like to see Hoboken respond the same way.

The city is sympathetic, but…

Wagner has expressed his concerns to Hoboken city spokesman Juan Melli and says Melli told him the helicopters and their routes are controlled by the FAA. Wagner believes that the helicopters are not following the designated routes, and that more must be done to change the amount of flights that occur per day as well as their flight paths.

“They’re not being monitored,” he said. “They’re flying too close for comfort. Hoboken’s a quiet bedroom community, and now these helicopters are making us feel as though we are under siege.”

Last week, Mayor Dawn Zimmer acknowledged that the increase in helicopter noise as an issue that needs to be addressed for the safety and security of all Hoboken residents.

“The helicopters are regulated by the federal government, but where’s the oversight?” Zimmer said. “If New York City believes there’s an economic value to flying tourist helicopters extensively, then it is only fair that they keep the noise on their side of the Hudson River. Redirecting the flight path from New York City to New Jersey is very unfair to Hoboken and New Jersey Gold Coast residents.”

With the help of neighbors, Wagner plans to create a Facebook page dedicated to bringing this issue the clout that it needs to invoke change.

“It isn’t just a matter of my own discomfort,” Wagner said. “I’ve been hearing about children being woken up and scared, of daily routines being disrupted. And there is no economic boon for Hoboken from all of this.”

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the maximum permitted noise level for helicopters in-flight is 104 Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels. For comparison, a diesel train going 45 m.p.h. is 88 decibels, and a power mower is 107 decibels.

American Eurocopter, one of the suppliers of helicopters for NYC’s tours, boasts that their newer models have a noise level 8.5 decibels less than the maximum permitted noise level permitted by ICAO standards – still louder than a diesel truck.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 08, 2013
Would it also be possible to do something about the news helicopters? On the north end of Hoboken they often hover for what seems like over and hour in the morning. Perhaps it is just for traffic or something, but boy are they loud and annoying.
West New York
June 29, 2013
We have a thirty-four foot balcony facing the Hudson River that was a peaceful amenity that drew us to this community twenty years ago. Today the decibel level heightened by these helicopters is deafening. We have to shout to be heard while sitting and enjoying the summer breezes and view of the Manhattan skyline. We have decided to install noise insulating windows, as some of our neighbors have done, until we can move to a sane residential area. We go indoors to get relief from the noise. During the posting of this comment, nine helicopters have passed overhead at low altitude.
April 30, 2013
I live on 15th and Washington and started working from home full-time late last year. As the weather got warmer, we've been bombarded with helicopters flying overhead. It's one after another making my ceiling vibrate constantly. Like my neighbor suggested, I will remember who heard our misery come election time. It's absolutely UNACCEPTABLE that some of our elected officials don't even respond to letters from their constituents.
April 21, 2013
Join the movement, go to Stop NYC Tourist Helicopters Over NJ Side of Hudson River on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/StopNycTouristHelicoptersOverNjSideOfHudsonRiver

to LIKE and share your story, your plight, your pains and to stay in touch as we make a lot of our own noise to our politicians. It takes a proverbial village to get things done. So let’s ban together and make a difference in the skies over our communities."

April 21, 2013
Hi Brian-- a bit more info. Even if the FAA enforced higher altitudes, the fact that the choppers use the DMH means that they WILL be low flying a couple of minutes after takeoff and before landing.... with absolutely no constraints on the number of flights/choppers in nonstop rotation (and idling while at the DMH), the noise is CONSTANT, for 9-10 hours/day.
April 21, 2013
Hi-- thanks for this article, but there are a couple of false impressions. The flight paths DO NOT spare coastal Brooklyn or lower Manhattan, since all of the 100s of daily nonessential tourist chopper flights leave from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport-- where their low and slow route takes them over NY Harbor (including over Governors Island). Being over water is irrelevant to the massive noise and air pollution that these choppers generate without any consequences. Mayor Bloomberg controls the DMH and has totally shielded the tourist chopper industry from any controls on flight frequency, noise mitigation requirements, etc (and relies on misleading economic benefit numbers to try to justify them, but he's also a self-admitted helicopter obsessive). The FAA, which the tourist chopper industry has captured, has similarly refused to exercise any real oversight- despite requests from numerous NYC elected officials and community groups to do so. Finally, the NYCEDC didn't "win" the current route, but devised it to get Manhattanites and inland Brooklynites to stop complaining, after community activists were able to shut down the East and West Side heliports to the tourist choppers. In other words, an industry that no one supports in its current form is successfully playing whack-a-mole with our quality of life, having total sway over the FAA and NYC.
April 21, 2013
Hi Brooklynite,

We greatly appreciate you input. The facts we have found come from posted news articles not blogs or other social media. So there is a high likelihood that the public has only seen one side or part of the bigger story.

We are just as upset about the siege in the skies over the Hudson River that affect both sides of the River. Join us please, the greater mass we can build on both sides would enable us to really make a difference.

No surprise that you mention Mayor Bloomberg and the quasi chopper industry oversight group. With NYC's Mayoral campaign in full swing this might be the best time to strike.

Again no surprise that that FAA is not really impacting or enforcing flight altitude and timeframes for flights over the most densely populated urban region in the USA.

Regarding what NYCEDC possibly did to shut down concerned Brooklynites and Manhanities so that this industry could flourish... a case of business interests and padded politician pockets over the interests of the people.

Again, join us to make the right noise so that we can get the right political clout on our side.

Lets gain the attention of the right people that can influence change for the better of the people.

Contact us at https://www.facebook.com/StopNycTouristHelicoptersOverNjSideOfHudsonRiver

Thank you