Two lawmakers are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make an alternative helicopter route permanent following its success in northeast Queens.
Since the agency implemented the six-month pilot program for the alternative North Shore Helicopter Route in October 2018, residents have reported significant decreases in helicopter noise during the busy summer months. Now, Councilman Paul Vallone and Congressman Tom Suozzi want the FAA to make the successful pilot program permanent.
Beginning in October 2018, the FAA tested the alternative route which shifted air traffic away from northeast Queens, cutting helicopter and seaplane traffic by up to 50 percent. In April 2019, Vallone and Suozzi requested a 180-day program extension, which benefits residents in Bayside, Bay Terrace, Malba and Whitestone until Oct. 2, 2019.
“From Memorial Day to Labor Day and into the fall, northeast Queens residents will be free to enjoy their backyards, parks and waterfronts without the constant assault of helicopter noise that unfortunately in past years became the norm,” said Vallone. “As this pilot program continues to provide needed relief to the families who call northeast Queens home, I join Congressman Suozzi in urging the FAA to establish this as a permanent change.”
The FAA established the original North Shore Helicopter Route in 2008 so that pilots had a voluntary path to travel over the Long Island Sound. In 2012, the agency mandated pilots to use the route when flying to and from the East End. In 2020, the FAA ruled to keep the route active through 2020.
“I am grateful to the FAA for heeding my numerous phone calls, letters and personal entreaties to address the helicopter noise in Whitestone,” Suozzi said. “All reports indicate that the pilot program has resulted in dramatic quality of life improvements for the residents of northeastern Queens. Now, Council member Vallone, the folks at We Love Whitestone, and I will continue pleading with the FAA to take this very successful pilot program and make it permanent.”
Suozzi, who is the co-chair of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, has worked with local groups like the We Love Whitestone Civic Association to adopt common-sense solutions to mitigate noise and air pollution.
“Thanks to efforts by our community working along with Congressman Suozzi and Councilman Vallone, the modification of the NSR has achieved a significant decrease in helicopter and seaplane traffic over the communities of northeast Queens,” said George Mirtsopoulos, vice president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association. “On behalf of our community, we are grateful for not only this improvement to our quality of life but also for the reduction of traffic subjecting these communities to the possibility of a more severe incident that could impact the well-being of residents. We urge our elected officials to advocate for a mandatory all-water route to ensure the safety of the residents of New York City, which is the desired goal on this issue.”
FAA conducted tests and evaluated VFR helicopters and floatplanes operating at New York City heliports and seaports during the six-month period. LaGuardia and New York TRACON used the alternative route during the six-month period.
“Congressman Suozzi and Councilman Vallone, along with George and Carmen Mirtsopoulos of We Love Whitestone and Daniel Aranoff who created stopthechop.com, were instrumental in bringing back serenity and quality of life northeast Queens residents have known for a lifetime,” said Alfredo Centola, president of We Love Whitestone Civic. “The invasion of Hampton helicopter and small craft traffic truly destroyed our quality of life, especially during our summers. We can now once again enjoy our patios, backyards, pools and summer nights with windows open! We are grateful to no longer be assaulted by air and other harmful pollutants these helicopters and seaplanes drop on us.”
Whitestone resident Doreen Fogarty-Ellis added, “Last summer and the summer before that was brutal. You couldn’t even sit outside and enjoy your yard and I was being woken up to the sound of helicopters. I’ve noticed a big difference this summer and I’m so thankful. I support our representatives in their call to make this pilot program permanent so that my neighbors and I continue to see relief.”