Town of North Hempstead Supervisor John Kaiman, left, listens as...

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor John Kaiman, left, listens as Senator Charles Schumer, right, speaks during a news conference regarding helicopter flights over residential areas Friday at the town pier in Port Washington. (Feb. 18, 2011) Credit: John Dunn

After years of shuddering under the "thwump, thwump, thwump" of commuter helicopters, North Shore residents have renewed hopes for some peace.

For the past three to four years, Len Schaier of Port Washington has been lobbying to have the private helicopter companies that fly a mainly North Shore route be more attentive to residents' concerns about noise. He tracked the helicopters using their transponders to mark their altitude and location as evidence in his fight. He even built a contraption to take pictures and record their noise.

On Thursday night, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, giving the agency authority to regulate helicopter noise and routes.

The measure, which must pass in the House, would allow the FAA to create regulations nationwide governing noise problems and specifically requires the agency to create rules for Long Island within a year of passage.

"It happens in the morning. It happens in the afternoon," Schaier said Friday of the noise. "I'm looking forward to the clout of the FAA helping with this problem."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) added the amendment in response to complaints from rattled residents. "The quality of life on Long Island . . . is very much impaired because of these selfish helicopters," Schumer said at a news conference Friday at Port Washington town pier.

The FAA does not now regulate helicopter noise and cannot comment on the pending legislation, spokeswoman Arlene Salac said Friday. A proposal to implement flight path rules over Long Island stalled last year during the comment period and is still under review, the agency said.

The Eastern Region Helicopter Council does not support the amendment. Chairman Jeff Smith said members adhere to a 2007 agreement, which Schumer also helped develop, that requires travel at 2,500 feet when safe and prioritizes using a North Shore route.

Robert Grotell, special adviser to the council, said route flexibility was a better option for noise abatement. "When you establish a rule and say you have to fly here and a noise issue pops up, you won't be able to change that route," he said.

Smith said Schumer's charge that helicopter pilots aren't sticking by the 2007 agreement is false. But he acknowledged the move to prioritize the North Shore route meant North Hempstead was now getting more helicopter traffic.

Between 2008 and 2010, the town's 311 hotline received 7,426 complaints about helicopters, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said.

Jim Warwick, who also lives in Port Washington, likens the noise to drag racers in the sky. "About a half an hour ago, one came so low the windows shuddered again," he said Friday evening. "You think you're under attack."

Stabbing at HS graduation … State parks free admission … What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

Heat advisory ... Stabbing at HS graduation ... Man accused of explicit chats with girls ... Spring All-LI teams

Stabbing at HS graduation … State parks free admission … What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

Heat advisory ... Stabbing at HS graduation ... Man accused of explicit chats with girls ... Spring All-LI teams

Latest Videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME