November 1, 2013
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Delia von Neuschatz
Chapel Hill: Battery Park City, the 92-acre New York City community in lower Manhattan, has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for allowing incessant noise from tourist helicopters and commuter ferry horns. The key culprits are the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, the Port Authority Terminal, the United States Coast Guard, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In recent years, helicopter tours have been banned from using the East 34th Street Heliport and the West 30th Street heliport, due to noise complaints. Consequently, they all now operate out of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. There is no limit on the number of takeoffs and landings, which means they fly all day, every day, without end. Over 100,000 flights a year originate from that heliport—the vast majority of which are helicopter tours.
Delia von Neuschatz, a resident of Battery Park City, strongly objects to the unnecessary and excessive noise: “There is unrelenting noise emanating from helicopter tours over New York Harbor and the Hudson River,” von Neuschatz states. “There are five tour companies which use the Downtown Manhattan Heliport located at Pier 6 in the East River by Wall Street. They operate from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm, Monday through Saturday and on Sundays from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. They fly up the Hudson River on the New York side to the George Washington Bridge and fly back down on the New Jersey side. By my calculations, on average, a helicopter takes off every two minutes.”
von Neuschatz notes that “there is never a moment during the day when there isn’t a helicopter overhead. Usually, it’s two or three coming and going. As soon as the noise from one chopper recedes, the noise from the next chopper looms within earshot. On several occasions, I have seen as many as five helicopters straddling the Hudson at the same point. Also, they often fly lower than the prescribed FAA altitude and they fly very close to shore and even over buildings.”
On a recent Saturday, von Neuschatz logged 27 north-bound flights between 3:00 and 4:00 pm: “That means that there were about 270 flights that day. The Sunday before that, I logged 31 north-bound flights between 1:00 and 2:00 pm. This incessant flying has raised outcries from numerous New York and New Jersey neighborhoods from Brooklyn to Battery Park City to the Upper West Side and to Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City, among other municipalities. The noise is disrupting the lives of millions of people throughout New York and New Jersey.”
In recent months, Congressman Albio Sires and Senator Robert Menendez, along with a number of mayors, have sought to ban all tour flights from New Jersey airspace. In New York, US Congressman Jerrold Nadler and state Senator Daniel Squadron have tried to ban tourist flights altogether, but to no avail: “The problem,” von Neuschatz stated, “has been the Bloomberg administration, which refuses to place any further curbs on tourist flights, leaving it up to the tour companies to police themselves. The unsurprising result is that there is little or no oversight of the industry. The New York City Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the heliports, refuses to release data on the number of takeoffs and landings at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.”
A damning 1999 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council about site-seeing tours over New York City states that helicopter noise can lead to sleep-deprivation and can cause cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, as well as reduced learning abilities among children. Alarmingly, this report was written 14 years ago, when the volume of helicopter traffic was lower than it is today. The noise measurements in the NRDC report demonstrate that helicopters are even louder than jet airplanes.
Dean Flanagan, a resident of Battery Park, stated that “the noise pollution from helicopters and ferry horns is unreasonable and excessive. The peace and tranquility promised by Battery Park City’s ‘green’ design is gone. More than 1,000 times a day, the neighborhood is assaulted with ferry horns which exceed 90 dB near the terminal.”
The Port Authority ferry services providers, including New York Waterway and Liberty Landing Ferry, operate more than 250 departures a day from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm, each after four loud blasts of the horn.
The ferry operators say there is nothing they can do, because the Coast Guard received a request from a kayaker for enforcement of navigation rules–in spite of the fact that, for 20 years, the neighborhood was free of horns.
The massive ferry terminal is surrounded by a playground, several large residential buildings, a large park, a hotel, a public library, offices, restaurants, a memorial, and a pedestrian-filled esplanade–all of which are harmed by the excessive, constant noise.
Flanagan believes there should be quiet zones for ferry horns, particularly in planned residential communities: “Communities may petition the federal government to create ‘quiet zones’ for train horns. The same principle should apply to ferry horns.” Flanagan also called on local elected officials to support renewed funding for the EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control.
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, commented that “the noise situation in lower Manhattan is absurd. Citizens are looking for a peaceful place to live and raise a family. Instead, they are compounded by constant noise—all in the name of making a buck. New York, New Jersey, and federal officials should be committed to preserving peace and quiet and a good quality of life.”