As of Monday there were 49 comments on the website of the Federal Aviation Administration on its proposed plan for routing those terribly noisy helicopters that shuttle between Manhattan and the Hamptons.
If you’d like to comment via the Internet or read comments made by others, go to www.regulations.gov and for “keyword” type in: FAA-2010-0302. Comments can also be mailed to the FAA at the Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC. 20590. Or you can fax them to 202-493-2251. The deadline is June 25.
The FAA is to then issue its plan—in time, it has said, for the July 4th weekend.
Hopefully, the comments will make a difference.
The words of Merlie Neidell of Head of the Harbor sum up the views of many on the FAA website. “Please accept this comment regarding the absolute devastation to our serene way of life as a result of helicopters. Our peaceful little village is a sanctuary from hectic suburban life style; accordingly, the quietness of this unique jewel of a waterfront village has been invaded by helicopters trespassing on our solitude and causing stressful noise pollution. They are totally invasive and inconsiderate…You have absolutely no idea how rude as they travel…back and forth on their way from NYC to the Hamptons. They start at 6 a.m. and run till after midnight. They fly so low the tops of the trees rustle, the dishes in the kitchen cabinets shake and they interrupt our conversations, wake us up and invade our very existence.”
Suffolk Legislator Edward Romaine, the leading official locally in the fight against the chopper racket, writes that he is “pleased that the FAA has proposed rules to regulate helicopter traffic over Long Island” but is concerned about the details. The FAA “should establish waypoints along unpopulated areas” for the flights rather than “leaving” this to the “discretion” of the pilots. And he questions the FAA’s reliance on the so-called North Shore Route urging the “opening up” of airspace south of Kennedy Airport to enable helicopters to fly a southern route “completely away from populated areas and out over the ocean.”
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, in announcing the FAA move last month, declared that “these regulations are the culmination of years of work to protect Long Island residents from intrusive and disruptive helicopter noise” and “residents will finally have some peace and quiet and not have to worry about being jolted out of bed or interrupted at dinner. These regulations will make it clear, enough is enough.”
But the FAA’s “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” published several days later in the Federal Register was quite short on details. It said: “This proposed action would require helicopter operators to use the New York North Shore Route,” and noted it was “added to the FAA flight chart in 2008 and the use of that route is currently voluntary. New York public officials have continued to receive complaints regarding the adverse impact of helicopter noise on their communities.”
So the FAA would mandate use of the North Shore Route. But, as currently set up, the North Shore Route does not apply to all helicopters. It was developed in 2007 at meetings involving Mr. Schumer, other elected officials, the FAA and the Eastern Region Helicopter Council representing commercial chopper operators. As David Nuss, chairman of the council, wrote in a 2008 letter to Mr. Romaine: “The media and some elected officials have unfortunately perpetuated the misconception that all helicopters would be flying a mile out over the Sound at 2,500 feet. This is not and never was the case. The new North Shore Route was only designed for larger, twin-engine helicopters. Safety and weather conditions may require the smaller, single-engine helicopters to fly closer to shore or over land.”
Many of the Hamptons helicopters are single-engine craft—and they make lots of noise, too. Will the North Shore Route, in the end, be applied to them? The Eastern Region Helicopter Council is already complaining about that. “To send single-engine helicopters over water a mile or a mile-and-a-half from shore is something we have advised against because of safety,” Robert Grotell, its special advisor, recently told Newsday.
If many people speak out, maybe the FAA will listen and set the sweeping restrictions on the operations of the Hamptons choppers that are necessary. But comments will need to be sent in to the FAA before next week’s deadline.