In spite of what federal law says and in spite of what a federal court says, helicopters are still flying right over New Hyde Park and other residential parts of the north shore, harming citizens and the town with excessive and unlawful aircraft noise.
New Hyde Park Village trustee Donald Barbieri is among many residents and officials who are frustrated that local helicopter operators continue to flout a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling from late 2013, which states that helicopters in the New York metro area must fly over water one mile out from the north shore of Long Island, to minimize noise pollution in residential areas. Barbieri has even reached out to Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy to press the Federal Aviation Administration to enforce the ruling.
The issue was the focus of a Village Board of Trustees meeting late last year. New Hyde Park has been a central figure in the ongoing fight against noise pollution from aircraft in skies over Long Island.
Deputy Mayor Lawrence Montreuil acknowledged that the frequency of flights had decreased somewhat—with caveats. “They have been flying higher,” he said. “But that is only dependent on the air traffic. If the jets are using that air space, [the helicopters] are going to have to fly lower.”
According to the federal court, prior to 2008, helicopter pilots flying between New York City and eastern Long Island chose between three routes: the northern coast, the Long Island Expressway (LIE) through the middle, or the southern coast. Many pilots preferred to travel the north shore route, even when traveling to south shore destinations like the Hamptons, because it was faster and less likely to encounter weather delays common along the south shore.
“As a result, the north shore route experienced significant helicopter traffic,” the ruling noted.
Barbieri said there had been a conversation in the town about trying to get more traffic over the Expressway because “it would be less annoying to many people.” “I didn’t realize there was a route over the highway already,” he added. He was told the LIE route has not been utilized that much.
There are some legitimate exceptions to the one-mile-out rule. Barbieri explained some helicopters are not outfitted with equipment to fly over water, and are thereby exempt, according to what he’s heard.
“I don’t know exactly what that means and how difficult it is to outfit a helicopter with the equipment that enables them to fly over the water,” Barbieri said.
Air traffic congestion and related issues are problems throughout the metro area. State legislators passed a bill to require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a noise study of two major airports, but since New Jersey would have to pass identical legislation before the agency could proceed, Governor Andrew Cuomo instead ordered a separate study for New York. But, at least with respect to helicopters, the problem seems less in need of research than toothy enforcement.