NYC Democrats to introduce bill that would ban nearly all commercial helicopter traffic in city following fatal crashes

Oct 24, 2019
In The News

A trio of New York City lawmakers will roll out legislation this weekend that would ban nearly all commercial helicopter traffic in the five boroughs, the Daily News has learned, a drastic proposal that comes in response to several fatal chopper crashes.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), who’s leading the anti-helicopter charge, will join Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) to officially introduce the bill during a press conference at City Hall on Saturday.

A press release issued by Nadler’s office Thursday says the so-called “Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2019” will outlaw all “non-essential” helicopter traffic, “improve safety and cut down on noise."

“There is no justification for tourists to joy-ride over our city, endangering lives and creating more noise pollution,” Nadler tweeted.

Nadler’s statement does not define “non-essential” or elaborate on whether there will be any exceptions for certain services. A spokesman for Nadler did not return a request for comment.

However, a congressional source who has reviewed the bill told The News that the measure would effectively ban just about all commercial traffic, including helicopter tours hosted by companies like FlyNYON, which has been mired in controversy since a 2018 crash into the East River that killed five people.

The proposal will also ban services like Uber’s Copter, which offers high-rolling travelers $225 helicopter rides from Manhattan to JFK airport.

The only chopper traffic that would be allowed under the bill are ambulance, police and other law enforcement and emergency services, the source said.

“It’s going after helicopter tourism,” the person added.

The legislation would include a carve-out for services that could prove a “benefit of the public,” such as news organizations, according to the Capitol Hill insider. The source stressed that companies like Uber and FlyNYON would not be eligible to apply for such status.

A spokesman for FlyNYON did not return a request for comment.

Harry Hartfield, a representative for Uber, wouldn’t comment directly on the substance of the Maloney bill, but noted that its Copter service is “limited to weekday afternoons at rush hour."

“Copter is also meant to be short-term, generating operational and technology learnings for Uber Air, which will offer pooled rides on quieter, all-electric, zero-emission (vessels)," Hartfield said.

Since 1982, there have been at least 30 helicopter crashes in New York City that caused at least 25 deaths, many as a result of commercial flights, per statistics from Nadler’s office.

Most recently, a veteran helicopter pilot died after he crash-landed on top of a skyscraper in Midtown in June.

Another New York lawmaker, Sen. Chuck Schumer, has long called for a crackdown on helicopter traffic in the city.

Last month, Schumer unloaded on FlyNYON amid revelations that the company offered customers the chance to bring their dogs along for rides around Manhattan.

"Strapping in dogs for dangerous doors-off flights over New York is just totally repugnant,” Schumer said at a press conference on Sept. 8.

FlyNYON has since ended its so-called "Pilots N Paws” program.

With Clayton Guse