Menendez, Sires, Nadler Back Prieto-Sacco Bill to Ban Tourist Helicopters over Hudson River

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congressmen Albio Sires (N.J.-08) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.-10) today stood shoulder-to-shoulder with N.J. state, county and local officials to announce the latest effort by a united, bi-state coalition to end the proliferation of helicopter traffic over the Hudson River risking public safety and the quality of life for residents living along the waterfront.  Legislation being introduced by N.J. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and State Senator Nicholas Sacco, chair of the N.J. Senate Transportation Committee, would require the N.J. state transportation commissioner to prohibit tourist helicopter operations at aviation facilities licensed by the state.

“Residents want these tourist helicopters grounded and they deserve relief from the incessant noise and pounding headaches,” said Sen. Menendez. “The threat to public safety is very real and very troublesome, and while Congressman Sires and I continue to push for a federal solution, the state has to recognize it too has a role to play in this.  This commonsense bill attempts to protect the people in the air and on the ground.”

“The practice of having helicopters fly at lower altitudes creates a constant noise nuisance and safety issue for those in New Jersey living along the Hudson River,” said Rep. Sires. “I want to commend N.J. Assembly Speaker Prieto and State Senator and Senate Transportation Chairman Nicholas Sacco for introducing legislation calling for the ban of tourist helicopters.  As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I will continue to work with Senator Menendez on a federal solution to this issue.  I am pleased that this issue continues to have widespread support of all the elected officials here today or their representatives, calling on the Federal Aviation Administration for a ban of tourist helicopter traffic along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.”

“Sadly, the airspace above New York City and northern New Jersey seems more like the Wild West than the airspace above one of the most populated and congested metropolitan areas in America,” said Rep. Nadler. “For the last six months I have called on New York City to ban tourist helicopters from the downtown heliport in Manhattan and today I am proud to stand with Sen. Menendez, Rep. Sires and my colleagues in government in New Jersey in support of the state legislation introduced today by N.J. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and State Senator and Senate Transportation Chairman Nicholas Sacco to ban tourist helicopters operating out of heliports in New Jersey.  The constant barrage of helicopter noise deeply impacts the quality of life for the residents of both states and it is simply unacceptable and must be addressed by all levels of government.”

The Prieto-Sacco bill authorizes and requires the N.J. Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to take action to eliminate the noise, safety hazards and other negative impacts on the quality of life of New Jersey residents caused by tourist helicopters.

“Senator Menendez and Congressman Sires have been working hard on this issue and I commend their efforts, but it’s time for a multi-pronged attack and for the state to do its part,” said Speaker Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “These helicopters are creating almost non-stop health and safety risks and nuisance concerns for New Jersey residents living along the Hudson River.  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.”

“These tourist helicopters are not only a severe nuisance to our waterfront communities, they are also a major safety hazard,” Sen. Sacco said. “I am proud to be working with Speaker Prieto and our federal representatives to put a stop to these helicopters once and for all.”

Among the officials joining Sen. Menendez, Reps. Sires and Nadler, and Speaker Prieto for today’s announcement along the Weehawken waterfront were: Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise; Hudson County Freeholder Chairman E. Junior Maldonado; Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari; Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop; Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer; West New York Mayor Felix Roque; Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Dracheff; N.J. Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia; N.J. Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez; Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano; Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Vainieri on behalf of State Sen. Sacco, who is also the mayor of North Bergen; Weehawken Town Administrator Geo Ahmad on behalf of Mayor Richard Turner; Bayonne OEM Coordinator and Dep. Fire Chief Keith Weaver on behalf of Mayor Jimmy Davis; Shai Goldstein on behalf of N.J. Assemblyman Raj Mukherji; Mayria Della Cruz on behalf of Hudson County Freeholder Carridad Rodriguez; Hudson County OEM Director James Woods; and Brian Wagner from the advocacy group “Stop the Chop”.

“Assembly Speaker Prieto and Senator Sacco have stood up for our communities by requiring the DOT take action to protect the thousands of residents impacted by these tourist helicopters on a daily basis,” said Mayor Fulop. “We thank them for their advocacy and for always putting the residents of Hudson County and New Jersey first.”

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Sires have continued to lead a bi-state coalition of federal, state and local elected officials fighting to improve the quality of life and public safety for those living along both sides of the Hudson River.  Rep. Nadler has been championing efforts on the New York side to ban tourist flights.

“The quality of life in our waterfront communities ought to trump tourism interests,” Hudson Exec. DeGise said. “I know I speak for residents, all along our waterfront from North Bergen to Bayonne, who are grateful for the efforts of Sen. Sacco and Speaker Prieto on this issue at the state level.  I strongly support this bill.”

Last August, Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Sires sent a letter to the heads of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NJDOT requesting guidance on additional authority needed to implement and enforce a ban on tour helicopters that present public nuisance and safety concerns.  The federal lawmakers intend to explore avenues within the pending FAA reauthorization process to address this problem.