Group plans thousands of flights over Riverdale

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Riverdale and Yonkers residents are joining forces to try to stop the construction of a proposed heliport on the Ludlow waterfront area in Yonkers.

HeliNY, a helicopter tourism company that flies customers to and from the Statue of Liberty, is seeking to buy a parcel of land just north of the Westchester County Sewage Treatment Plant on Fernbrook Street.

In a PowerPoint presentation given to members of the Ludlow Park Residents Association on May 23, HeliNY said that the company had conducted a sound study and determined that the noise from overhead helicopters would not exceed that of living near an elevated subway or Metro-North track.

However, residents complained that the evidence was both uncorroborated and that helicopters in the study were not permitted to land or take off from the site.

“We’ve been promised a park for years, and now we are getting this,” Riverdale Country School teacher and Ludlow resident Josh Merrow said. “They conducted a sound test in February without telling anyone, so no one can corroborate their numbers… They also tested it over the train tracks where, of course, nobody lives.”

HeliNY did not provide an interview for this article. But its presentation to the Ludlow Park Residents Association promised it would pay the organization up to $20,000 a year in fees from customer tickets.

“These deep-pocketed folks are trying to pull one over on this community and really on the whole city,” Mr. Merrow said. “You can make the case that it is environmental racism. They come to the most diverse and lowest income neighborhood they can find and they come to the community meeting and say, ‘We’re doing this; get used to it.’”

According to the HeliNY presentation from May, the company plans to run three to six flights to the Statue of Liberty every hour for twelve hours a day, seven days a week. That would total between 13,140 and 26,280 flights per year.

“We are concerned about noise and air pollution,” said Cindy Pramann, the president of the Ludlow Park Residents Association. “I don’t know anyone in the neighborhood in favor of it.”

According to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the helicopter tourism industry brings in $3 million in revenues each year. But opposition from residents and politicians in Manhattan and New Jersey has driven the industry into Yonkers.

In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a deal with companies like HeliNY that would cut the number of helicopter tours taking off in Manhattan by half, leaving them to find other means of reaching the city.

“They’ve been pushed from Manhattan and they’ve already been banned from New Jersey and this is the next closest place to New York City,” Ms. Pramann said. 

The proposal to build the heliport is still in committee in the Yonkers City Council. The town’s Mayor Mike Spano has publicly voiced his opposition.

Meanwhile, Mr. Merrow has begun forming a coalition of schools along the Hudson River that stand to be affected by the passing of helicopters. He also is working with Stop the Chop, an anti-helicopter tour organization, to increase public awareness.

“As soon as I get the go-ahead from the Ludlow [Residents Association], we are going to start contacting schools and building support,” he said.

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