Helicopter traffic riles Upper West Side residents

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:00

    Some residents say flights over West End Avenue have increased

    Sonya Koltovich said her 29th-floor windows sometimes vibrate from the noise of passing helicopters. She lives on West End Avenue in the Lincoln Towers, a cluster of high rises on the Upper West Side at 66th Street.

    "They appear to fly over West End Avenue and bank left on 72 Street, then swing down toward the river," said Koltovich. "And there are so many of them, flying one after another. I haven't been able to determine if they're news copters or just tourist helicopters."

    Jeanette Sikofant, who lives in the same building on the 28th floor, said helicopters fly by "day and night" and are an irritant.

    We checked with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an organization that works with city officials to promote "community compatibility" with tourism helicopter flights in NYC, to see if any flight patterns have changed.

    The answer was no. "There has been no change in routes around NYC and no increase of complaints from the Upper West Side," said Loren Riegelhaupt, a representative for the council. "It's likely that what people are hearing are either police or news helicopters which obviously have different and less restrictive flight rules than the tourism flights."

    "Any helicopter may fly over Manhattan," said a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration. "The FAA has designated a specific route over Central Park to allow flights from either side of Manhattan or to reach destinations outside New York City. This corridor is known as the Central Park Route and runs from West 72nd Street to the northern tip of Roosevelt Island."

    An analyst with the council who works on tourism flight patterns said there is no tour at 72nd Street, and that tourism flights are confined to flying over the Hudson River. "The compliance levels are virtually 100 percent," said the analyst.

    For Gale Brewer, the Upper West Side councilwoman and current borough president candidate, the issue of helicopter noise bothering her constituents is a perennial one. Brewer's office introduced a resolution in 2012 that would sever the relationship between the NYC Economic Development Corporation and helicopter tourism companies.

    The resolution is still in committee. A letter sent to Brewer's office by an FAA administrator confirmed that tourism helicopters are not using the Central Park Route, although it did note that the route saw a spike in usage by government, media, police and emergency helicopters after Super Storm Sandy. Brewer and other legislators in Manhattan have no authority to restrict those types of flights.

    Brewer's office said they haven't seen an uptick in complaints over helicopter noise on the Upper West Side, but it's still a problem and has a negative impact on residents' quality of life.

    The EDC also said complaints coming into 311 about helicopter noise are down nearly 30 percent over the same period in 2012.

    Community Board 7 Chairman Mark Diller said the board has seen no increase in complaints over helicopter noise, but agrees it's a problem for residents on the Upper West Side.

    Are you an Upper West Side resident? Are helicopters keeping you up at night? We'd like to hear about it. Email newsreporter@strausnews.com, subject line "Helicopters."