NYC: Deal reduces tourism helicopter traffic by 50 percent

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NEW YORK  — Helicopter operators carrying tourists over New York City landmarks have agreed to a gradual reduction in tours to 50 percent by next year, meaning tens of thousands fewer trips and quieter homes and neighborhoods, officials said Sunday.

The plan calls for the number of flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to be reduced by next January, trimming nearly 30,000 flights annually. All tourist flights would end on Sundays beginning April 1. Overall flights would be reduced by 20 percent by June 1 and 40 percent by Oct. 1.

The agreement was jointly announced by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the Helicopter Tourism and Jobs Council. If the goal is not reached, further flight cutbacks will result, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, quoted in a joint release, said the deal will “significantly cut down on the number of helicopter tours near residential areas and major parks, while keeping this part of our tourism sector active and viable.”

He added: “Everyone gave a little to get to this outcome, but the solution will mean a more livable city for everyone.”

The resolution came more than two months after the New York City Council staged a public hearing after some council members proposed banning the helicopters. Residents complained that the sightseeing tours cause daylong noise and contribute to pollution.

John Dellaportas, president of a Stop the Chop community group that opposes the flights and argues that they negatively affect children and military veterans in particular, called the outcome a “sweetheart deal” that was negotiated in secret and without community input.

“This so-called compromise actually entrenches the helicopter industry while doing nothing for New York City families, students, park goers and workers,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to push for a full ban and expect the City Council to see through this PR ploy for what it is.”

Some city government and helicopter tourism industry officials praised the deal, which came together Friday.

Maria Torres-Springer, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp., said it will improve the quality of life for New Yorkers who live in waterfront communities while preserving an important tourism industry and supporting transportation.

Ron Ricciardi, president of Saker Aviation, said the deal was in the “interests of all stakeholders.”

The joint press release touting the deal included praise for the compromise from City Council members who had introduced legislation pushing for action. They promised to continue to monitor the issue.