Press Releases

New York City Economic Development Corporation Releases New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan

Press Release


The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) in cooperation with the five helicopter tour operators out of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH) and the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC), announced the release of the New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan today. The plan is a comprehensive package that includes the elimination of short tours, elimination of sightseeing tours over both Central Park and the Empire State Building, elimination of sightseeing flights over Brooklyn, the adoption of improved sightseeing tour routes, and an enhanced 311 protocol and data gathering system.

Over the last two weeks, NYCEDC has been working closely with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council and the tour operators to develop a plan in response to the concerns of the local community and elected officials regarding the impact of helicopter sightseeing flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport have on surrounding neighborhoods. To address these concerns the New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan includes the following elements:

  • Elimination of short tours:
    The air tour operators have agreed to eliminate “short tour” flights. These flights, lasting four to eight minutes, represent approximately 15-20% of sightseeing flights at DMH. Short tours are also concentrated over New York Harbor and because of their brevity and flight path are major contributors to helicopter noise in the Brooklyn Heights area. These flights have been eliminated as of today.
  • Elimination of sightseeing tours over Central Park:
    Tours over Central Park have been eliminated.
  • Elimination of sightseeing tours over the Empire State Building:
    Tours over the Empire State Building have been eliminated.
  • Elimination of sightseeing flights over Brooklyn:
    No sightseeing flights will be allowed to fly over Brooklyn.
  • Adoption of improved sightseeing tour routes:
    Starting immediately, all air tour operators will follow either of the two agreed upon tours. All sightseeing helicopters will depart and approach the heliport from the south, maximizing aircraft distances from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Helicopters will then follow the center of the Hudson River north to either 79th Street, or Yankee Stadium, before returning south center-west of the Hudson. All flights will transit the Hudson at 1,500 feet or above thereby mitigating noise heard from lower altitude flights.
  • Enhanced 311 protocol and data gathering:
    Currently, helicopter complaints to 311 are directed to NYCEDC. This process will be streamlined by having 311 representatives input the noise complaints, which will improve NYCEDC’s ability to track complaints and allow it to report data on noise complaints more effectively. Customers will also be able to use 311Online (www.nyc.gov/311) to file these complaints. Additionally, NYCEDC will establish a task force, along with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), FAA and the ERHC to develop a noise monitoring system in the Brooklyn Heights area and in other impacted communities.

In addition to the above plan, the installation of a fuel tank at heliport will reduce the number of operations by 10%. On a daily basis, over 35 operations are associated to fuel trips. The fuel tank is safe and FDNY, NYPD Counterterrorism, Marine One and Secret Service have evaluated the designs plans for the installation of the fuel tank and approved its location and operation.

The creation of this plan has been agreed upon by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council and the five tour operators at Downtown Manhattan Heliport and is subject to a letter of agreement (LOA) signed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) This plan will be administered and enforced by NYCEDC. There will be penalties for non-compliance up to and including the revocation of a tour company’s permit to operate from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. The plan will be reviewed in October to determine its effectiveness.

“The New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan is a win-win for both area residents and New York’s tourist industry,” said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “The Downtown Manhattan Heliport is an important part of New York City’s vibrant tourism sector, generating an estimated $45 million annually for the City’s economy and employing more than 300 people. I am proud to be a part of this solution which balances both quality of life needs and our important tourist industry.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “I commend EDC for this important first step toward addressing helicopter congestion and safety in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I am committed to continuing to work with the City, the Federal Aviation Administration, and all stakeholders involved to solve these serious airspace congestion and management problems. It is my goal to find additional solutions to tackle the safety and quality-of-life issues generated by the helicopter industry.”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “I applaud the EDC for their response to our calls for action. These regulations are a good initial step to mitigating the shake, rattle and rumble of excessive helicopter traffic over Brooklyn. I look forward to working with my fellow elected officials in the coming months to ensure these measures prove effective in improving the quality of life for residents in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said, “I applaud the EDC for understanding the concerns that neighborhood residents and my colleagues in government have raised regarding tourist helicopter traffic in New York City. The elimination of troublesome routes and implementation of a new 311 protocol are all steps in the right direction. I am committed to continue working with the city and my fellow elected officials to make sure the community feedback on these new measures are heard and incorporated into the ongoing plan to solve this problem.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “This news is a good faith effort to quickly address the concerns that my colleagues and I have raised.

The agreement to terminate the three tourist helicopter routes that are worst for neighborhoods is welcome news. Time will tell if this plan is the right fix for a serious problem, but heeding our call for a new 311 protocol is an important step in giving communities a voice and helping determine whether the problem persists. I look forward to continue working collaboratively with EDC, community members, and my colleagues in government to further develop and implement a comprehensive policy that is safe and works for the community.”

Assemblywoman Joan Millman said, “I want to thank the NYCEDC and the helicopter tour companies for listening to the needs of the community. The reduction in flights, the change in flight patterns and a better 311 complaint system are a much needed relief for the residents of Brooklyn Heights. This is an important first step but we will remain vigilant to protect the quality of life for our constituents.”

Councilmember Gale Brewer said, “As the New York City Councilmember for the upper West Side, I congratulate all parties, including the staff of NYCEDC, on the new Helicopter Sightseeing Plan. It strikes a fair balance between the lives of New Yorkers, and the importance of tourism for jobs and the local economy. Residents of the West Side have been among the most negatively-impacted by tourist helicopters, with hundreds of overflights per day. This well-designed plan will help restore our quality of life, and bring some peace and quiet to Central Park. The plan's most encouraging aspects include new altitude restrictions in the Hudson River corridor, a noise monitoring system, and a streamlined protocol for 311 complaints. I look forward to continuing to work with all parties to inform the public, and make this plan a success.”

Councilmember Steve Levin said, “I am pleased that EDC has agreed to address the community’s concerns about helicopter traffic. I hope that we can all continue to work together to address all of the quality of life and safety concerns created by increased helicopter traffic from the Lower Manhattan Heliport. I urge everyone to call 311 to report any violation of the new flight regulations and I look forward to working with the EDC and my fellow elected officials to ensure our airways and open space are both as quiet and safe as possible.”

Councilmember Margaret Chin said, “I want to thank the EDC for their work on this issue and for their responsiveness to our constituents’ concerns. I am hopeful that stringent enforcement of the new protocols and flight plans will greatly reduce the problems that New Yorkers experience due to helicopter traffic. I also hope that the increased traffic around the New York harbor will not negatively impact residents in lower Manhattan, and look forward to working with the EDC and my colleagues in government to find a balance between the helicopter industry and the quality of life of New Yorkers.”

Jeffery Smith, Chairman, Eastern Region Helicopter Council said, “The Eastern Region Helicopter Council appreciates the City of New York and the New York Economic Development Corporation in allowing us to be part of this important process. The ERHC has a long standing record of working with the communities and elected officials to achieve the best solutions regarding the helicopter industry and the airspace in and around New York. We believe that the Air Tour Industry has heard the City’s call and have adjusted their business models appropriately.”

“The air tour industry is a key part of the New York City’s $28 billion tourism industry,” said NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta. “We are pleased that air tour operators and the City have reached an agreement that will allow helicopters to continue to operate in a safe manner that maintains the quality of life for New Yorkers as well as the vibrancy of New York City for the millions of people who visit City each year.”

About NYCEDC
New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC’s mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City’s competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City’s many opportunities. Find us on Facebook to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.

About the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan
The Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan is a comprehensive strategy to bring New York City through the current economic downturn as fast as possible. It focuses on three major areas: creating jobs for New Yorkers today, implementing a long-term vision for growing the city's economy, and building affordable, attractive neighborhoods in every borough. Taken together, the initiatives that the City has launched to achieve these goals will generate thousands of jobs and put New York City on a path to economic recovery and growth.

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