Whitestone has been rumbling with anger over Hampton helicopters that instill a sense of fear and discomfort among neighborhood residents.
Tuesday’s report of a single-engine plane crashed in Syosset, Long Island, that killed three occupants near a school has added to the anxieties of Whitestone residents.
“My heart sunk,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, in reference to the tragic news. “Jesus, it’s scary because all I kept thinking about is what if this happened in Whitestone? What if this happened in northeast Queens? That would have been devastating. If it happened there, it’s only a matter of time before it happens here.”
According to Centola, the civic and Whitestone residents have been battling the issue of helicopter traffic for the last four to five years. He noted that the noise level and pulsation has grown heavier and louder throughout the Bayside, College Point and Whitestone areas in recent times.
“The worst is from Thursday to Sunday. You literally get one helicopter per minute starting from 6 a.m. and going well past midnight many nights,” Centola said, describing the helicopters’ burdensome nature.
“You can’t sleep with the windows open. You can’t watch TV with your window open when the weather is nice. You can’t enjoy your backyard or pool. God forbid you have a child with sensory issues, they can’t be outside between the noise and pulsating,” he elaborated.
The We Love Whitestone Civic Association and community members have extensively addressed the issue with city officials such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Mayor Bill De Blasio, Congressman Steve Israel, Councilman Paul Vallone and state Senator Tony Avella. They conducted interviews with NY1, WPIX and QNS as well.
George Mirtsopoulos, vice president of We Love Whitestone, also gave a testimony at a meeting of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection.
“This past summer, the volume of helicopter and [RC] planes increased significantly and it’s been an assault on our senses,” he explained to council members at the Nov. 12 hearing. “Myself and my community can no longer enjoy our summers, while those who utilize this method of transportation have a great time flying mostly to the Hamptons for their peaceful getaways.”
In addition to their persistent actions, leaders of the civic have collaborated with Whitestone resident Dan Arnoff, who developed the website StoptheChop NY to petition the issue. Since June 21, more than 4,000 complaints were submitted online by residents who have documented various incidents of disruptive noise from the overhead aircrafts.
Nonetheless, the Whitestone community is frustrated with the city’s failure to combat the problematic choppers.
Centola indicated that ongoing pressure from Senator Charles Schumer enabled the Federal Aviation Administration to implement a mandatory North Shore route that takes helicopters out over the Long Island Sound and prevents them from flying above residential areas. Years later, the issue remains.
Furthermore, the helicopters fly lower in bad weather and closer to home with no flight control, Centola said. He believes that the choppers prefer to fly over neighborhoods instead of the water since it saves money on fuel.
A 2013 news release from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) even attributed aircraft noise to heart problems.
“In speculating about how aircraft noise might be linked to higher rates of cardiovascular hospitalizations among older people, the researchers noted that noise has been previously linked with stress reactions and increased blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” the document stated.
“Why do we have to wait for a tragedy when a problem can be resolved immediately?” Centola reasoned.
QNS has contacted Congressman Israel’s office on the matter and is awaiting a response.