Helicopters in New York City are becoming über-annoying, residents say.
An influx of on-demand chopper services like Uber Copter and Blade offering airportgoers an alternative to Manhattan gridlock for as little as $95 are flooding the skies over brownstone Brooklyn and lower Manhattan — and assaulting residents’ eardrums.
Park Slope residents say the Thanksgiving-week heli traffic has drowned their peaceful neighborhood in a roar so loud it made windows rattle, dogs growl and outdoor conversations inaudible.
“It’s horrible. It’s like a lawnmower going through your living room,” said Jerry, a resident of Lincoln Place who declined to provide his last name. On Nov. 15, he said he recorded 30 helicopters flying over his home between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Bill Parsons, who lives a few blocks away, compared the noise to “a Harley revving.”
“From the Vietnam War, I know what a Huey [helicopter] used in the Army sounds like. These are bigger. They’re louder … They sound like they are jet-propelled,” said Parsons, 71.
Jess Lynn, 62, counted nine choppers flying over his brownstone on Wednesday in just the span of 90 minutes, between 5:10 and 6:41 p.m.
“The helicopters are coming very low … and they come at quite a pace,” he said.
Citywide, gripes to the 311 hotline about helicopter noise have skyrocketed 150% to 2,602 through Nov. 30, from last year’s total of 1,039 complaints. The previous record of 1,505 complaints was set in 2015.
Ridesharing giant Uber launched Uber Copter in July, and expanded in October. Flight-broker Blade began offering on-demand flights in March via Blade Airport. Eight-minute chopper rides began replacing two-hour taxis between JFK and downtown.
Jerry and his neighbors said they’ve heard some helicopter traffic for years, but what was once a rare occurrence became an almost constant blight this summer.
The chopper companies could easily quiet their critics by taking an all-water route that would pass over no residential neighborhoods — down the East River, south across New York Harbor and west over Jamaica Bay. But that would add time and fuel costs to the trip.
Uber Copter’s approximate route verses number of noise complaints to 311*
16 complaints: President St, between Van Brunt and Columbia St.
10 complaints: Waverly Ave, at Gates Ave, Fulton St & Atlantic Ave.
12 complaints: Lincoln Place, cross streets are 7th Ave, 8th Ave, Rogers Ave and Bedford Ave.
10 complaints: 3rd Place, at Henry, Clinton and Court St.
35 complaints: 8 ave, at St Johns Place and Lincoln Place.
27 complaints: Autumn Ave at Fulton & Atlantic Aves.
61 complaints: Eastern Pkway at Underhill Ave.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires aircrafts to keep an altitude of at least 1,000 feet when flying over residential areas and 500 feet over water, but the regulations note helicopters “can be operated at less than the minimums.”
Uber admits it flies directly over Brooklyn — departing the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, heading south down the East River before looping around Governor’s Island and making a sharp eastbound turn toward the airport, according to spokesman Matt Wing.
But Uber insists it doesn’t generate many complaints because it flies a more limited schedule than Blade – 2 to 6 p.m. on weekdays only. It also claimed that it tries to keep its copters at a noise-minimizing altitude of 1,500 feet over residential areas. It would not divulge how many trips it flies.
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Blade uses Midtown and downtown heliports, flies to all three airports and operates longer hours. It starts some routes as early as 7 a.m. and ends as late as 7 p.m., and has Sunday flights.
Blade refused to specify what flight paths its choppers take, their altitude or how many flights they operate.
Spokesman Simon McLaren claimed their pilots “always fly over water until reaching cruising altitude and speed,” and then follow air-traffic control instructions. He didn’t say if this entailed flying mostly over Brooklyn.
Parsons, a retired pilot, does not believe the choppers are following FAA rules for altitude.
“I would swear they weren’t more than 100 feet above,” he said of the nagging birds. “They are definitely not 500 feet above.”
Pols have heard the complaints but lament that murky federal helicopter regulations, and the failure to even track chopper flight paths, make the skies like “the Wild West.”
“There is no regulation,” said Robert Gottheim, a spokesman for Congressman Jerrold Nadler.
Nadler, along with Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez, proposed a bill in October to ban all sightseeing and commuter helicopters. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in October he supports a ban.
Additional reporting by Kathianne Boniello