The years of fighting to rid North Shore communities of low-flying Hamptons-bound helicopters is coming to an end, Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday, with the federal government due to issue mandatory flight paths that will divert air traffic over the Long Island Sound.
The new Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Schumer said, will require choppers to fly over water at a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet. The FAA has submitted the new rule to the Federal Register, spokesman Jim Peters said, and the regulation could be in place by the July 4 weekend.
"I realized what a terrible problem this was when I was in people's backyards in Nassau and Suffolk counties and heard the helicopters at a frighteningly noisy pitch," Schumer said. "One came over backyards every 15 minutes. For Long Islanders, it virtually ruined their summers."
Once the regulations are published in the Federal Register on Monday, the public will have 30 days to comment. The regulations then become law.
Helicopter noise, common across the North Shore and North Fork, is most acute in North Hempstead, where Supervisor Jon Kaiman said the town's 311 system received more than 6,000 calls about the nuisance.
Sue Auriemma, a Munsey Park civic leader, said helicopter noise has rattled her dishes. She praised the deal, saying, "Without a doubt, this will address the issues that people are having."
Under the new FAA regulations, helicopters flying from Manhattan to East Hampton and Gabreski (Westhampton Beach) airports will fly one mile offshore over the Sound. When they do cross over land, they will be required to traverse "the least populated" areas, Schumer's office said.
Schumer said East End residents won't be burdened with excessive noise because of the altitude requirement. Suffolk Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who has proposed county laws restricting helicopter traffic, said he's pleased and "cautiously optimistic."
"I'm hoping for a far more peaceful summer for residents of the North Shore and North Fork because of this," he said.
Long Islanders have long been burdened with helicopter noise. In 2007, the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, which represents 90 percent of Long Island's helicopter flights, agreed to abide by roughly the path the FAA will now require.
Schumer said pilots did not abide by the agreement. "We tried the voluntary system," he said. "Last year I think it got worse." A council spokesman did not return calls Thursday.
The FAA has claimed it didn't have authority to regulate Long Island helicopters flight paths. Schumer said his attorneys have convinced them otherwise.