Lawmakers at the city, state and federal level met with Whitestone residents this month to address complaints of excessive noise pollution from low flying helicopters and outline courses of action to lessen the impact on the community.
The meetings follow the collection of data from Stop the Chop NY, a website developed by Whitestone resident Dan Aronoff to collect submitted complaints on incidents of disruptive noise from overhead aircrafts. Aronoff has been working with leaders of the We Love Whitestone civic group to call attention to the issue, and the site has collected nearly 1,800 complaints so far since its launch in June, with most originating in northeast Queens.
As a result of the meetings, some officials have agreed to accept complaints from the site at their respective offices, including Councilman Paul Vallone, state Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Congressman Steve Israel.
Officials also offered individual pledges to action, including a plan from Borough President Melinda Katz to invite stakeholders affected by helicopter noise to roundtables discussing the broader topic of aviation noise, and to facilitate additional meetings among elected representatives from Queens and New York City at large.
As part of their course of action, Avella and Simanowitz are currently in talks with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office to call the FAA’s attention to the issue of helicopter noise pollution.
“There is no reason residents of northeast Queens should be subjected to ever-increasing helicopter noise when alternative flight patterns are available,” Avella said.
Vallone plans to introduce two pieces of legislation. One of the resolutions will call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to amend a helicopter route along Long Island’s north shore to require helicopters to either fly only over water or at higher altitudes. The second resolution would require the City Council to be notified of annual data relating to the location, routes, rules, regulations and other guidelines that exist pertaining to commercial and tourist helicopter routes.
“The never-ending attack on our quality of life by the helicopter flights across our communities has led our office to start a new united approach,” Vallone said. “Together we discussed ways to address the lack of accountability, data, complaint recording, city, state or federal regulations on this issue.”
According to Aronoff, a meeting with Assemblyman Edward Braunstein will also take place in the coming weeks, and he is expecting to attend meetings in the fall with FAA representatives and helicopter operators. While he expects fewer submitted complaints to the site after the summer due to seasonal decreases in helicopter travel to the Hamptons, he will continue to collect data on his website for later use.
Aronoff said he has received emotionally moving testimonies from users of his site affected by the issue, including music producers unable to hear the nuances of their tunes to mothers of developmentally challenged children disturbed by constant overhead noise.
“There are people who are getting in contact with me as the website developer and telling me how they appreciate what’s going on because it’s become unbearable for them,” Aronoff said. “It’s beyond just quality of life; there are real impacts to people and real lives being affected by this.”