Legislation to curb tourist helicopter operations introduced by four Hudson County Assembly Democrats, including Speaker Vincent Prieto (32), has been advanced by the tourism, gaming and the arts committee.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Also sponsored by Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-32), as well as Assemblymen Raj Mukherji and Carmelo Garcia (D-33), the legislations seeks to prohibit tourist helicopter operations at aviation facilities licensed by the state.
Specifically, the bill (A-4310) requires the Commissioner of Transportation to prohibit tourist helicopter operations at aviation facilities licensed by the state.
A tourist helicopter, in this instance, is defined as “a helicopter that operates for the purpose of providing sightseeing tours to patrons in areas including, but not limited to, the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City, the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island.”
“These helicopters are creating almost non-stop health and safety risks and nuisance concerns for New Jersey residents living along the Hudson River,” Prieto said in a statement.
“This is important airspace that has been clogged by nearly 700 tourist helicopters each day. Let’s do the right thing before we see more and more tragedies.”
On August 8, 2009, a small private plane collided with a tourist helicopter in a low-altitude midair accident over the Hudson River near Hoboken, and then on June 30, 2013, a tourist helicopter was forced to land on the Hudson River after losing power.
The sponsors noted pleas to the Federal Aviation Administration have gone unheeded, and that New York recently restricted tourist helicopters operating out of New York heliports from flying over Central Park, the Empire State Building and Brooklyn.
The restrictions imposed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation increased the heavy tourist helicopter traffic on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.
Approximately 700 helicopters, carrying the many tourists that visit the area each year, fly over the Hudson River and New Jersey each day to capture the views of the New York City skyline.
Both on the federal and state level, Hudson County officials have previously attempted to ban bi-state tourist helicopters.
“We need to consider the health, safety, and welfare of the New Jersey residents living along the Hudson River and to prohibit tourist helicopters from flying out of New Jersey as best we can,” Jimenez said in a prepared statement.
“We may not be able to stop every one of them, but with this legislation we’d be curtailing it significantly and improving public safety and quality of life.”
Mukherji, also in a prepared statement, said the helicopters are a “nuisance” on top of creating health and safety concerns, while Garcia exclaimed that “these helicopters aren’t serving a public safety function” so it’s time to do something about them.
The bill was released to the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and The Arts Committee earlier today.