An agreement between the House and Senate may soon result in the passage of legislation that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to re-evaluate the North Shore helicopter route that for years has prompted noise complaints from residents.
The Senate and House came to an agreement Tuesday for consideration of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, according to a news release from the office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). The act includes a legislative proposal that will require the FAA to reassess the North Shore helicopter route and address the noise impact on affected communities, improve altitude enforcement and consider alternatives — including an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean that residents and officials have long sought.
“Anything that will provide relief from helicopter noise will be welcome news for residents of the region,” said Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
North Fork residents, civic groups and municipal officials have complained that increased helicopter traffic along the route has brought more noise to the area. The FAA in July 2016 extended the route’s duration to Aug. 6, 2020. The agency also denied Southold Town's request in May 2017 to terminate the route and direct flight operations to or from all South Fork landing points to use the South Shore flight route.
The House and Senate reached a bipartisan agreement to pass the legislation before FAA funding expires on Sunday, according to Zeldin's release.
“Summer after summer, North Fork residents’ quality of life has suffered due to the persistent issue of helicopter noise on the East End,” Zeldin said. “The FAA and Department of Transportation have sole jurisdiction over the aircraft routes that have impacted these communities, but from the route’s planning to its continued use, they have continued to flat out ignore the residents directly affected.”
In a statement Friday, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the agency is aware of the provision being considered.
"Since we are currently reviewing the legislation, we will not comment on how we plan to implement any particular provision at this time," Bergen said.
On the North Fork, officials welcomed the news.
Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she hopes the legislation provides relief to Riverhead residents who have dealt with helicopter noise, which she said has “exponentially increased” during the summer in recent years.
“These helicopters tend to fly the same routes when navigating over land, resulting in helicopters passing overhead every 5 to 10 minutes,” said Jens-Smith. “The noise created is so loud and disturbing that it can drown out your TV, or even shake pictures off your wall if you are inside. And outside is even worse, requiring you to stop your conversations until after the helicopters have passed.”
Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the amendment is “a common-sense approach that will provide immediate relief to our community.”
“The ever increasing number of helicopters over Southold has devastated the quality of life for our residents,” he said. “Southold has become a doormat to the helicopter operators as they head to and from the Hamptons.”