Whitestone, Malba residents angry over noise from low-flying helicopters

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan / Videos courtesy of Alfredo Centola

A recent helicopter route change meant to spare Long Island ears from a barrage of choppers could be the reason why some parts of Queens are now dealing with the rumble.

“There are days my home vibrates,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association. “Things fall off the shelves.”

Some 1,500 homes in Whitestone and Malba have been bombarded with low-flying helicopters daily, according to local leaders and residents.

On weekends, they say, crisscrossing choppers fly over their homes once every 30 seconds for about 12 hours a day.

“When they get really low, you feel it through your body,” said Joe Bono of Whitestone.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandate last August ordered helicopters flying to and from the city and eastern Long Island to follow a route along the north shore of Long Island between Huntington and the North Fork, according to the National Business Aviation Association.

The ruling came after a push from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and noise complaints from residents, aviation leaders said.

But while it bars helicopter traffic over Long Island’s most populated areas, it directs a higher concentration of choppers to repeatedly fly over Whitestone and Malba, according to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

“As a direct result of Senator Schumer’s mandatory North Shore route — which we strongly oppose — the number of flights over the Throgs Neck route has dramatically increased, just as it has over the North Fork communities in Long Island,” said a spokesperson for the Council, Jeff Smith.

Max Young, a spokesperson for Schumer, pointed the finger of blame back, saying the Eastern Region Helicopter Council “has resisted all reasonable efforts” to cut down the noise in order to fly low and save money.

The above water route mandate does not begin until the middle of Long Island, according to the aide.

“The Eastern Regional Helicopter Council is either ignorant, lying or both.” Young said. “They could solve this entire problem by simply flying over water and flying higher, but so far they’ve refused.”

Queens leaders and residents said the helicopter noise has been ongoing for a little over a year but intensified in the last six months.

“You live in a borough with two airports. Living with airplane noise has sort of been a fact of life. That’s bad enough,” said Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz. “You have dozens of helicopters flying over this community on a daily basis. There’s no consideration given to the residents of this community.”

Simanowitz and State Senator Tony Avella said the problem is both a local noise and national safety issue.

“Terrorists are getting smarter and smarter,” Simanowitz said. “Every time we think of a better way to protect ourselves, they think of a better way to strike fear into our hearts. This would be a catastrophic way to do it.”

The pair of legislators has requested a briefing from the Department of Homeland Security and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The very fact that . . . anybody can buy a ticket and get on, it’s a pretty scary thing,” Avella said.

In a statement, the FAA said it “does not have the authority to prohibit aircraft from flying over a particular area” unless the operation is unsafe.

“It’s getting outrageous,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. “It’s destroying our quality of life and striking fear into homeowners.”