Friday, August 10, 2018

Thank you, Jerrold Nadler (and Carolyn Maloney and Nydia M. Velazquez and...)

For years now, I have complained about the helicopters that fly over Central Park, especially the ones that love to hover right over the Delacorte Theater during performances of free outdoor plays.

If ever there was a case of rich jerks ruining New York City for tons of ordinary citizens, it is these helicopters that sometimes make plays inaudible for hundreds of people, all so some millionaire can look down on the rest of us--literally.

That's why I was very excited to hear on the radio today that Congressman Jarrold Nadler is requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration restrict helicopters from flying over the park during performances by The Public Theater. I went to the congressman's website, and I was delighted to read that a number of members of congress have signed on to a joint letter supporting the restrictions.

Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nydia M. Velazquez, Eliot Engel, Yvette D. Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, and Adriano Espaillat are all asking the FAA to take action, as is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. For some reason, New York's other senator, Chuck Schumer, has been noticeably quiet on this issue. This is the letter his colleagues sent to Daniel K. Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA:

We are requesting that the FAA institute Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) over Central Park during the summer evenings of the outdoor performances of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  Over the past months and years the helicopter traffic at night over Central Park has steadily gotten worse. The constant noise generated from hovering and flying helicopters over the Delacorte Theater has interrupted the performance of the shows, and disrupted what is a cherished New York City summer tradition.

The Public has a rich history that spans more than fifty years.  Founded by the legendary Joseph Papp in 1962, The Public is regarded as one of the country’s foremost cultural institutions. The Public’s signature Shakespeare in the Park program is a beloved New York institution, distributing free tickets to open-air Shakespeare performances featuring many of the country’s leading actors.  Since its inception, free Shakespeare in the Park has been seen by nearly five million people, and keeps their productions accessible by offering free or low-cost theater performances and educational and community programming.

This quintessential New York experience is being threatened by the noise generated by the helicopter traffic.  For decades, helicopter flights over New York City and in the surrounding region have impacted the quality of life of our constituents, and our skies are inundated by the large numbers of tourist helicopters.  These flights are dangerous to the public, cause noise pollution, and have a negative impact on people living in a dense, urban community.  Since 2007, there have been at least 8 helicopter accidents over the City of New York.  And just recently on March 11, 2018 a helicopter carrying sightseeing tourists crashed into the East River in New York City, killing the five passengers on board.  On each occasion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to sufficiently act to regulate helicopter traffic.

While you are considering stronger regulations to deal with congestion and excessive noise generated from helicopter traffic in the sky, we request a fix that could be done immediately, and would give our constituents confidence that the FAA understands the depth of this quality of life issue, and will address the problem.

We urge you to issue a TFR for outdoor performances of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival during the May through August performances with the exception of law enforcement and emergency flights. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

With the mess our country is in right now, there are certainly more important issues than helicopter traffic. Still, our government sometimes seems to be answerable only to the rich and powerful, and it's nice to see politicians standing up for an issue that affects me personally, as well as so many other ordinary New Yorkers who use the park.

Central Park should be a refuge in the city, and I'd like to see all non-emergency helicopters banned from the airspace above Central Park, whether there is a performance going on or not. That might never happen, but banning them during performances in the Delacorte would be an excellent start.