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Queens Chronicle

Pols: Make chopper program permanent

Suozzi, Vallone, Whitestone residents press FAA about popular pilot initiative

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:14 pm, Thu Aug 15, 2019.

Helicopter noise has been an extreme quality-of-life issue in recent years for Whitestone residents. Summer is the worst time, with choppers constantly going between Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Relief has come this year, in the form of a Federal Aviation Administration pilot program directing air traffic away from northeast Queens. Overall, it’s cut down helicopter and seaplane traffic there by up to 50 percent.

The FAA started a six-month test of the pilot last October and agreed in April to extend it six more months.

Residents have praised the program. Whitestone leaders say the FAA now needs to make it permanent.

“I am grateful to the FAA for heeding my numerous phone calls, letters, and personal entreaties to address the helicopter noise in Whitestone,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) said in a statement. “All reports indicate that the pilot program has resulted in dramatic quality of life improvements for the residents of northeastern Queens.”

Suozzi co-chairs the Quiet Skies Caucus, a group of representatives working on aircraft noise solutions for their districts.

“From Memorial Day to Labor Day and into the fall, Northeast Queens residents will be free to enjoy their backyards, parks and waterfronts without the constant assault of helicopter noise that unfortunately in past years became the norm,” City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said in his own statement.

According to We Love Whitestone Civic Association President Alfredo Centola, the pilot has made a huge difference.

“The invasion of Hampton helicopter and small craft traffic truly destroyed our quality of life, especially during our summers. We can now once again enjoy our patios, backyards, pools and summer nights with windows open! We are grateful to no longer be assaulted by air and other harmful pollutants these helicopters and sea planes drop on us.”

In a statement responding to Whitestone leaders’ call to make the route permanent, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the pilot program is still set to expire in October. Were the agency to decide to make it permanent, he added, there would have to be an environmental review.

Helicopters haven’t been the only noise nuisance for Whitestone residents in recent years. Noise from music-blasting cars in the Willets Point area has also been a major irritant for residents of the neighborhood.

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