by Mark Huber
State and local government elected officials are taking fresh aim at New York City helicopter traffic. The state legislature passed what essentially is a poison pill for helicopter operators in New York City and the bill awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature. Meanwhile, new legislation has been introduced in the New York City Council that would eliminate non-essential helicopter flights from the two city-owned heliports at Wall Street and East 34th Street.
Late last month, both houses of the state legislature ratified legislation that would allow individual citizens to sue helicopter operators who “create an unreasonable level of sustained noise at ground level.” It also amends the Hudson River Park Act to ban non-essential helicopter traffic from the park. The West 30th Street heliport is owned by New York State via the Hudson River Park Trust and amends the New York City charter to prohibit the city from entering into concession agreements that allow for non-essential use of the city’s heliports.
Under the bill, “non-essential” is defined as anything other than for public health and safety, law enforcement, emergency response, disaster response, heavy lifting for construction, research, or newsgathering. The bill would apply to all helitour flights; photo flights not conducted by a licensed television, film, or production company; and helicopters not adhering to routes pre-approved by the FAA. It would become effective within 30 days of Hochul’s signature.
Proposed New York City legislation closely mirrors the state bill and comes weeks after the city’s Economic Development Corp. issued a request for proposal for a new operator bid for the Wall Street heliport as the current lease, with Saker Aviation, will soon expire. Saker noted in its most recent 10-K form filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that demand for helitour flights from Wall Street from July 2020 through April 2022 “have experienced much lower demand.”