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Queens Chronicle

FAA can’t find any copter complaints

Lawmakers asked feds to look into buzz over HB, but there was a hitch

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:54 pm, Thu Dec 5, 2019.

Residents of Howard Beach have not complained enough about an onslaught of helicopter traffic over their homes for the federal government to take notice.

Hard to believe, but that’s what the regional director of the Federal Aviation Administration is saying.

South Queens lawmakers and the FAA have been exchanging politically polite letters since last summer about the sharp increase in helicopter traffic swooping over the area.

Charter services offering flights between Manhattan and JFK International Airport for as little as $199 each way appear to be the source of the new traffic, officials say.

Surprisingly, when Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and seven other local lawmakers asked the FAA to investigate, the agency replied that it could not help.

Why? Because “a search of [its] records do not reveal any complaints of low-flying helicopters in the areas of Howard Beach and Marine Park,” FAA Regional Administrator Jennifer Solomon wrote back last month.

In a copy of the letter obtained by the Chronicle, Solomon promised the agency would “continue to monitor the safety aspects” of the situation. But without a complaint to go on, there wasn’t much she could do.

“Well, now they have it,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said this week. “I made a complaint.”

Addabbo is among seven other local lawmakers who co-signed the Jeffries letter in early October asking for help.

Lawmakers from neighborhoods all along the Jamaica Bay approach to JFK — including three state legislators from Brooklyn, state Senators Andrew Gounardes (D) and Roxanne Persaud (D) and Assemblyman Jaime Williams (D), City Councilmen Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Alan Maisel (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) — say they signed on to the letter because of the volume of constituent complaints.

“But people don’t know who to contact at the FAA,” said Addabbo. “They are more comfortable contacting their elected officials.

“I told them: ‘You don’t get them because I get them. So, here’s your official complaint.’”

Since May, residents of the neighborhood say, what used to be a few, low-flying copters a day have turned into a procession of five or six per hour or more, swooping over homes heading for the airport.

“The planes went away and the copters came to take their place,” said Peter McMahon, a contractor who lives in Old Howard Beach.

“The amount of noise coming from these copters is absurd.”

The FAA has suggested flight paths for helicopters over Spring Creek Park or Jamaica Bay to take them away from homes.

In an earlier letter, the agency said it could not redraw the paths to take copters farther out over the bay without interfering with airplanes taking off from JFK.

“My concern,” said Addabbo, “is that if it goes unregulated, these helicopter flights will become more frequent and a quality-of-life issue.”

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