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Avella bill grants Port Authority control of helicopters

State Sen. Tony Avella is hoping to pass legislation to grant Port Authority control over helicopter flight patterns.
By Mark Hallum

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) will introduce a bill to grant the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey control of helicopter routes through airspace within its boundaries to mitigate noise pollution.

Helicopter noise coming from the North Shore of Long Island and across Queens has long been paired with airplane noise with both on the rise in recent years. Many activists and politicians contend the higher noise levels could have public health implications for hypertension, sleep deprivation and high blood pressure and could escalate post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Granting authority to the Port Authority to control helicopter routes within its jurisdiction will allow for better control of the noise pollution and quality-of-life issues that helicopter traffic creates. By increasing regulations of these routes, we can minimize the negative effects to quality of life to residents while still maintaining efficient helicopter routes,” Avella said.

Avella’s bill would allow the Port Authority to address the needs of his constituents while maintaining the needs of those operating in the sky.

“It is clear that New York state must do a better job of managing the routes that helicopters take as to balance the convenience of flight routes with the concerns of those communities affected by helicopter traffic,” the bill says.

At an April town hall in Whitestone held by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Little Neck), co-chairman of the bipartisan Quiet Skies Caucus, residents in the surrounding communities complained that helicopter noise was not only a constant throughout the year, but also tended to start earlier in the morning and with greater frequency as the weather grew warmer.

Suozzi said a study of the health impacts of such noise could help a potential independent agency make the calls necessary to bring effective noise mitigation.

“We need the health studies to demonstrate objectively that there are serious implications,” Suozzi said. “We can look at health issues caused by helicopter noise like sleep deprivation, post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure and hyper tension. We also need to establish a complaint system to show the impact on the community and solutions to lower the DNL threshold. We need an outside agency to oversee the routes for Queens and Long Island’s North Shore.”

Avella championed the need for the Port Authority to hire a permanent roundtable facilitator to resolve noise pollution in the skies above his district in February.

The roundtable, which mainly works to address airplane noise out of LaGuardia and JFK airports, has taken issue with Port Authority’s appointing a facilitator with conflict of interest ties, according to Avella, to Port Authority itself, which advocates argued would only serve the interests of the state agency to take no action on the issue of arrival and departure trajectories.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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