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Helicopters

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Birds chirping, kids playing, barbecues firing up are just the typical sounds of summer in suburbia. 

Though with summer season close by, many residents living along the North Shore will once again have to contend with increased helicopter traffic and noise due to a known helicopter route that flies directly over the heads of many residential communities.

Despite the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 signed into law by President Donald Trump six months ago, which would require the Federal Aviation Administration to reassess the North Shore Helicopter Route, many residents and elected officials feel that the FAA hasn’t taken enough action on the issue and argue that the public workshops held in November 2018 on Long Island were inadequate. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent a letter to the acting regional director of the FAA, Maria Stanco, on May 10 stating the agency should take immediate action to address the aircraft noise on the North Fork. This is Zeldin’s second letter to the FAA calling for them to comply with the legislation’s requirement to hold real public hearings in the communities impacted by the North Shore route. 

“The ‘workshops’ held on Long Island last year did not meet the clear mandates of the law and insulted my constituents,” Zeldin stated in the letter. “The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.” 

In preparation of the workshops held in November, the FAA accepted public comments from residents, where 337 people responded. 

John Cullen of Riverhead left a comment in February asking what the FAA thinks of the 336 comments and will there ever be a public hearing held by them.  

“Not a single aircraft lands on the North Shore, yet the commercial helicopters need to fly over 18 miles above homes which includes northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County,” he said.

Tim Sinclair said the current practice of helicopter traffic across the Southold area is terrible. 

“An all-water route that avoids crossing Southold and the bay that separates the North and South Forks is needed,” he said in a comment online. “Helicopter traffic is constant and especially noted on Fridays en route to the South Shore and then again on Sunday leaving the South Shore headed north. In between there is constant traffic and low-flying helicopters as well as private jets.”

“The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.”

— Lee Zeldin

Sinclair has complained many times about the helicopters but said the FAA requires tail number identification “which is nearly impossible for most civilians to observe and record,” he said in a comment. “Moreover, aircraft comes through at low altitudes below 500 feet creating a terrible noise upsetting people, animal and wildlife in the area. This disregard for quality of life and the peaceful enjoyment of the residents of Southold is a crime. An alternate all-water route is needed for both peace and quiet as well as public safety.” 

The North Shore Helicopter Route was created in 2012 and originally had a two-year duration set to end in August 2014. It was again extended for another two years, and in the summer of 2016,  it was extended for four years. Zeldin said the FAA used questionable “emergency authority” to extend the timeline of the route. The latest extension is set to expire on August 6, 2020. 

Zeldin’s office said the congressman has requested other U.S. representatives assist in addressing the issue. He has maintained the FAA needs to consider an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean, and has not yet received a response from the federal agency.

Jim Peters, FAA spokesperson, said in a statement that they will review Zeldin’s letter, which they received on May 14, and then respond to him directly. 

Earlier this month, the FAA extended the use of alternative noise relief routes that shifted traffic away from neighborhoods in northeast Queens. Zeldin said this is great news for suffering residents in those areas but a slap in the face to the North Fork, which has sought similar relief for years. 

“Actions by your agency to provide relief to select communities impacted by the deeply flawed North Shore Route while ignoring the pleas of others is unfair and inequitable,” the congressman said in his letter. “The residents of the North Fork do not live near any helipads or airports and receive only the negative impact of noise and none of the economic benefits associated with the air traffic that greatly increases over their homes during the summer high season. If the FAA is willing and able to provide noise relief to New York City communities suffering from the NSR through regulatory action, it must swiftly and immediately take the same action for North Fork residents.”

Similarly, on Long Island, there are plans for a new luxury helicopter shuttle to the Hamptons where residents on the East End have also been trying to reduce helicopter noise in the area. 

Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company, announced earlier this month that the summer shuttles will run from mid-June through August.

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