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NJ Senator Robert Menendez Pushes Ban of Tourist Helicopters over the Hudson

by Rebecca Lewis, Associated Press
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Pier A Park in Hoboken

Rebecca Lewis, WFUV

Residents of Hoboken say they can't wait for a quieter Hudson River.

After sitting in Pier A Park for just 20 minutes on Friday, at least a dozen helicopters passed overhead. Christina Starbuck has lived in Hoboken for 25 years and says she still gets surprised by the number of helicopters over the Hudson.

"It started, I remember, Easter weekend," Starbuck said. "I thought something happened downtown. There were so many helicopters flying overhead and that's just tourism."

Starbuck said the helicopters weren't always as bad as they are now. With each passing year, she said they've been getting worse. Starbuck said she and her family are constantly troubled by the sound of helicopters, which she compares to living next to a military air field.

"It makes being outside at my home impossible, it makes opening my windows impossible and my house still rattles even when we're all closed up inside."

That's why Starbuck said she supports the push to ban tourist helicopters in New Jersey, as well as New York. She and numerous other local residents came to the press conference Senator Menendez held on Friday at Pier A Park.

Mendez and other officials, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, wrote a letter to the FAA and the New Jersey Department of Transportation demanding change. They called on the FAA to take leadership "given the number of stakeholders in the matter."

"It is time for the FAA to use any and every tool they have to shut down these helicopters and put an end to this problem," Menendez said, "and if they don't have the tools they need, then we will do all we can to make sure they have them.

In addition, Rep. Nadler sent a letter signed by 20 New York officials to Mayor De Blasio asking he ban tourist helicopters on the New York side of the Hudson. Officials said the joint effort is meant to prevent businesses simply moving from one side of the river to the other.

Ian Fried, a spokesman for the EDC, told Associated Press that the city takes all complaints on the matter seriously and is in discussions "to determine how we can best address them and help alleviate this disturbance."

He also pointed to statistics which said 311 calls about helicopters have decreased by 80% since 2010 when various regulations were put in place about tourist helicopters. None of the regulations applied to Hudson copters.

When asked about this decrease in numbers, Menendez said people "get tired" of calling 311 when there has been no change. He and other officials also said despite this apparent decrease in numbers, people calling to complain to their offices has increased over the years.

Menendez said unless a solution is reached, he will push for legislation that would ban tourist helicopters when the FAA's reauthorization comes next year.

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