By Carissa Barstis
Hoboken residents are used to having tourist helicopters overhead, but locals say they have noticed an uptick in the frequency of the craft that fly by lately.
Hudson Street resident Brian Wagner said recently that he noticed a significant increase in helicopter noise during the last weekend of March, when warm temperatures were finally breaking through the last of winter’s chill.
“I was in my apartment in the middle of the building, and a helicopter flew low and close,” said Wagner, a Hudson Street resident, last week. “The chandelier shook; the glass in the hutch rattled. It’s a disturbance that begins early in the morning, before 9 a.m., disrupting sleep and scaring the dogs. It goes on throughout the day and doesn’t seem to stop until after 10 p.m.”
Far from being a new nuisance in the metropolitan area, noise pollution from New York’s helicopter tour industry has affected residents along the Hudson and East rivers for years. In April 2010, New York City’s Economic Development Corp. succeeded in changing the flight paths of existing tourist helicopter routes, sparing Brooklyn, Midtown, and downtown Manhattan from the incessant buzz. Wagner believes some this re-routing could be partially responsible for the increase in helicopter traffic over Hoboken.
“It is only fair that they keep the noise on their side of the Hudson River.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
In addition, Jersey City and Bayonne residents complained earlier this year about copters from a Kearny-based heliport that were flying just above rooftops and trees. In February, the FAA pledged to specifically instruct helicopter pilots to fly at their maximum allowed altitude of 1,000 feet whenever air traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport permitted.
Like a freight train in the sky
Wagner and other residents along Hudson Street say that relief from the current helicopter-induced cacophony is rare. One resident, Julian Brigden, said she has had to purchase noise-canceling headphones so that he can get work done from his home office during the day.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Brigden said. “If they would only move the flight paths back over the river, that would be a significant improvement.”
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith filed a complaint in December about low-flying and noisy helicopters. In a Feb. 13 press release, FAA Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo said that “The Teterboro Flight Standards District Office has collaborated with Newark Air Traffic Control Tower, as well as helicopter operators that frequent the Kearny heliport, in order to address Mayor Smith’s concerns. Both pilots and air traffic controllers have demonstrated a constructive attitude on the matter and initiative on revising the current procedures.”
“Since the FAA response, we have had less complaints about helicopter noise,” said Joe Ryan, Bayonne’s Public Information Director, last week.
Wagner would like to see Hoboken respond the same way.
The city is sympathetic, but…
Wagner has expressed his concerns to Hoboken city spokesman Juan Melli and says Melli told him the helicopters and their routes are controlled by the FAA. Wagner believes that the helicopters are not following the designated routes, and that more must be done to change the amount of flights that occur per day as well as their flight paths.
“They’re not being monitored,” he said. “They’re flying too close for comfort. Hoboken’s a quiet bedroom community, and now these helicopters are making us feel as though we are under siege.”
Last week, Mayor Dawn Zimmer acknowledged that the increase in helicopter noise as an issue that needs to be addressed for the safety and security of all Hoboken residents.
“The helicopters are regulated by the federal government, but where’s the oversight?” Zimmer said. “If New York City believes there’s an economic value to flying tourist helicopters extensively, then it is only fair that they keep the noise on their side of the Hudson River. Redirecting the flight path from New York City to New Jersey is very unfair to Hoboken and New Jersey Gold Coast residents.”
With the help of neighbors, Wagner plans to create a Facebook page dedicated to bringing this issue the clout that it needs to invoke change.
“It isn’t just a matter of my own discomfort,” Wagner said. “I’ve been hearing about children being woken up and scared, of daily routines being disrupted. And there is no economic boon for Hoboken from all of this.”
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the maximum permitted noise level for helicopters in-flight is 104 Effective Perceived Noise in Decibels. For comparison, a diesel train going 45 m.p.h. is 88 decibels, and a power mower is 107 decibels.
American Eurocopter, one of the suppliers of helicopters for NYC’s tours, boasts that their newer models have a noise level 8.5 decibels less than the maximum permitted noise level permitted by ICAO standards – still louder than a diesel truck.