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Lookout, below! Choppers over Heights could actually cause brain damage

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a hangar hangover!

Brooklyn Heights residents and nearby park-goers are covering their ears and screaming at the recent upswing of tourist helicopters flying over the area — all coming from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport on that other island.

The noise insanity has caused a maelstrom of public outcry, and just a few days after our resident noise expert found that the choppers could lead to brain damage, the city’s Economic Development Corporation is “looking at options” to put a stop to the chop.

The complaints — from Heights residents as well as Brooklyn Bridge Park-goers at Pier 1 — are piling up faster than the injury reports coming from the playground in the new park.

“You can often see four or five helicopters in the air, and another five or six idling on the [Manhattan] pad,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Drew Burchenal. “The helicopters zoom right overhead like a scene out of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ ”

Some blame the weather, some blame the pilot-alluring opening of Pier 1, and some blame the phasing-out of the W. 30th Street Heliport in Manhattan, which sent all the chopper traffic to the downtown location on the East River.

The EDC blames several factors.

For one, April is the second-busiest month, behind December, for helicopter tours (only $800 a pop!). Last April, nearly 3,000 tour helicopters landed in the city alone — and now the only helipad left is taking the brunt of those landings.

The city had more than 25,000 helicopter landings last year.

“[We want to] address the concerns associated with the downtown heliport,” said EDC spokesman David Lombino.

Regardless, the incessant “roaring” that locals say is a “war-zone atmosphere” has prompted local elected officials, such as Councilman Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg) and state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights), to rally last week to urge the city to cut down on tourist chopper landings in Manhattan.

But is the noise so bad? Heights residents and visitors disagree.

“There’s white noise all around — this is New York,” said Ann Geismar, who pointed to the Manhattan highways, construction workers, and boats around her on the Promenade. “With all that, the helicopters themselves are not particularly noticeable.”

Still, the fly-by frequency is high.

Our staff parked itself at the foot of Old Fulton Street near the entrance to the new portion of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and found tourist choppers in the sky — sometimes several at the same time — every five minutes.

What’s worse, Fort Greene noise expert George Prochnik — who literally wrote the book on noise pollution — said the frequency is the real problem.

“Studies indicate that it is irrelevant how easily you can physically hear the noise, compared to what the physiological impacts are,” Prochnik told The Brooklyn Paper. “It doesn’t matter if you feel like, ‘I can tough this out’ — your body doesn’t know that.”

Prochnik added that the helicopter traffic on top of your average “white noise” can lead to slower brain development in children, and eventually brain damage if not curtailed early.

“We’ve seen situations where people were asleep and weren’t woken by the noise, yet all the stress markers in the body elevate,” he said. “Ultimately, there’s also an increased risk for heart attacks. This is not your ears anymore.”

It’s unclear whether the city and federal aviation officials will respond with quiet hours or cutting takeoffs at helicopter pads on the waterfront. No one got back to us before our whirring deadline.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Matthew Parker from Bklyn Heights says:
Way to "break" the news, only 3 days late. The Brooklyn Paper is really on top of the borough.

And only two exclamation points in the entire article (though one in the first sentence). Plus one in the headline. Not sure if that's progress towards becoming a legitimate reporter.

Does Mr. Murdoch encourage his "reporters" to use exclamation points to over sensationalize the "news"? Or is it just Andy's "style"?
April 11, 2010, 10:27 pm
maxine from bBrooklyn Heights says:
I agree with the stress levels rising. I live opposite the exit of the Brooklyn Bride onto Cadman Plaza West and the traffic noise is awful. Loud radios, honking from cars and trucks on the BQE as well.Then there is the police pulling people over and blaring their loud speakers.I'm thinking of wearing ear plugs and getting a white noise machine.Anyone else bothered as I am?signed, sleepless in Brooklyn
April 11, 2010, 11:50 pm
Anal_yst from FiDi says:
Please, I work by the heliport and spend a good deal of time outside in FiDi; the choppers aren't a problem, gimme a break these freakin whiney bastards, sheesh!
April 12, 2010, 8:49 am
lucky from gowanus says:
I have a clear view of the helicopter traffic. I am lucky enough to be far away. But the stream is very steady. I pity the people who have to hear the constant noise. Anal_yst, this is not whining. You are either deaf or get your $ from the helicopter business.
April 12, 2010, 6:12 pm
biker boy from bensonhurst says:
the choppers are extremely lound and distracting. They take away from the whole quiet of the parks. Govenors Island this weekend fathers day was horrendous, chopper after chopper all day long, as many as seven were in the air at one time.

Helicopter noise is 10 times worse than any construction, car or truck noise.
Ann Geismar, after reading her statement of the helicopters, is a retard and doesnt know what she is talking about.
How would she like it out her bedroom windows.

what morons we have working in our government.

The tourist flights should be shut down once and for all and give us residents the quality of life back.
June 19, 2011, 8:50 pm

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