Police & Fire

Taking Action Against Disruptive Local Helicopter Activity


NYPD Helicopters
You’ve probably realized the past week and a half has been a busy one for news stories in our area. Some (like the fire at 465 Ocean Avenue that injured four, the two PS 315 students accused of poisoning their teacher, and yesterday’s school bus pyrotechnics) have attracted borough- or citywide media attention–and, accordingly, swarms of helicopters. Neighbors have noticed, and so have we.

The New York City Helicopter Sightseeing Plan forbids sightseeing tour flights over Brooklyn, so we can conclude that the noise over our area is from news and NYPD aircrafts. Certainly some helicopter activity is necessary–particularly police flyovers, or news outlets scoping out traffic or even grabbing a quick shot of something like the exterior of PS 315–but often times the hovering seems a bit excessive.

“[Helicopters] seem to hover over our neighborhood at least once a week and this morning’s hovering was particularly noisy and drawn out,” wrote neighbor Paul McKenna last week after the PS 315 incident, and who says the chopper noise near his home lasted from about 6-8am. Who needs an alarm?

Residents of Harlem and Washington Heights have recently raised the issue of constant helicopter disturbances in their area, some of which are due to sightseeing tours–but most of which, says The New York Daily News, are due to NYPD and news activity. 311 gives New Yorkers the option to lodge complaints about any kind of helicopter, be it sightseeing, NYPD, or news gathering–for flying too low, hovering, or even “passing by.”

In addition to 311 complaints, if you are concerned about local chopper noise, it might be worth reaching out to elected officials. The aforementioned Upper Manhattan residents taking issues with constant helicopter noise have an ally in their City Councilmember Mark Levine–so  whether your local City Council representative is Mathieu Eugene or Jumaane Williams, getting in touch is never a bad idea.

Have you had issues with hovering helicopters in your neck of the woods? Do you think there’s a reasonable time limit for news aircrafts to linger over a scene, or that they should be discouraged in certain cases or at certain hours? Have you complained about local helicopter issues before? Or do you just not see the big deal?


Comment policy


  1. Helicopters? They don’t even move the needle on the disturbance meter. Film crews sucking up all the parking….now that’s a disturbance.

  2. Barely noticeable other than the NYPD searchlight ones every now an again… but I’m not going to complain about that! I was on a rooftop on Monday evening — the helicopter traffic from all of the rich people returning from their weekend in the Hamptons was amazing. I guess some folks have fully recovered from 2008, eh?!

  3. I am far more concerned with the gun shots and bottle fights on my corner than parking and helicopters.

  4. The police copters are always welcome, but there is no excuse for the news ones lingering for hours. The loud hipsters walking by after the bars close are much more disturbing than the copters.

  5. Non-issue. They are NYPD or media helicopters and clearly fly for a reason, usually looking for a criminal.There was clearly something going on over the last two days with all of the sirens and helicopters. Please, find something worthwhile to complain about. Your precious ears are not more important than the safety of the neighborhood. Wah wah wah.

  6. Alternate side 4 of 5 business days on my block and has been that way for my entire 35 years of life. My basement floods every time it rains more than a drizzle because of the lake in the park and the lack of proper drainage. But oh nooo there’s a helicopter sound. Let’s rise up!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Nora, are you kidding me? You wrote an article for this site YESTERDAY about the smoke bomb on the school bus. The helicopters and sirens were because of this, yet, today, you write a piece complaining about the noise? Holy crap. You are something else!!!!!!!

  8. Wait, what? I think it’s absolutely justified for news helicopters to grab a shot of something important when they urgently need one, like with the bus incident yesterday. Either way, Kerri managed to get her shot of the scene without a helicopter or much time hovering.

    A large part of my job is to be a mouthpiece for neighbors who write to me with an issue, whether or not I have a personal stake in said issue. I am simply asking readers if they have encountered a noise problem, and directing those who are concerned but unsure of what to do to the proper channels.

    I’m really glad it’s not a problem for you though, and I hope you will strike up a conversation one day in person so you can see what I’m actually like instead of just making assumptions.

  9. Nora, maybe we should have a DPC commenters’ gathering at one of the local establishments. We can all wear “Hello, My Name Is…” stickers with our screen names 🙂

  10. Several years ago, in the middle of summer -when the windows were open- in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, I was woken up by the sound of helicopters doing fly overs and circling the neighborhood.
    I didn’t put these two things together when I was half asleep but the next day I figured out the police were probably chasing down some criminal and I thought, “GOOD! I hope they caught the bastard!”
    SO NO, helicopters don’t bother me at all.
    You know what bothers me? Those kids in front of my building “hanging out” and dribbling a basketball! Do you know how much that REPETITIVE NOISE travels??? There used to be a “No loitering” sign that some jerk removed and my management company won’t replace. Hence, can’t take any action.
    Any suggestions?

  11. Leave Nora alone. She’s providing a wonderful community service and doesn’t deserve your grief.

  12. What’s your management company’s justification for not replacing the sign? And was it really the sign that was working to begin with, or was it your super or other building staff enforcing the “no loitering” rule?

  13. I wouldn’t want to strike up a conversation with you. I shouldn’t have to feel a compulsion to get to know, in person, all of the writers of all of the articles on blogs and in newspapers that I read, because their work should speak for itself. I would, however, want to strike up a conversation with the people who complained to you about helicopter noise the day after a scary incident involving children that required the use of them, if those people even exist. Usually, in this neighborhood, we hear helicopters at night, moments after gunshots. In both cases, I’m very happy that there are helicopters in the sky and hope they continue to do what they do. I felt the need to post because while your first article was completely apropos and a community service, your second article reads like an attempt to hop on the ‘call to arms’ bandwagon and does not serve anyone other than the clearly unsympathetic people who emailed you about the noise. Let’s save those for really important local and global issues.

  14. I have posted in the past for neighbors who have asked about sinkholes, getting trash cans on their blocks, poor internet service in the area, managing dog waste on local streets, having speed bumps installed, and more. That is my work. I also make a point at the end of most posts, as I did with this one, to ask questions of other neighbors in the interest of fairness–but whether or not other readers are experiencing the same issue, I always hope for an answer that is not accusatory or abusive towards me or anyone else.

    If you wrote me about how to get something fixed that other neighbors could also be experiencing, I would do my best to find you information and post on your behalf, and on the behalf of anyone else who might be concerned. As it so happens in this particular case, because of the number of people who email and tweet me about helicopters, I don’t just suspect others are having a problem–I am completely certain that they are.

    I am your neighbor. I live here too. I am easy enough to run into, and easy enough to be courteous to as you would to anyone else. You shouldn’t have to go out of your way to do anything, but there’s no great distance or red tape to get to me. However if you are so sure you’re completely averse to getting to know someone who is one of your neighbors–well, then that I am sorry to hear.

  15. Something tells me this has a lot more to do with your lack of sanity or reading comprehension skills than it does anybody’s writing or ability to whine.

  16. I agree that the noise of hovering helicopters can be disturbing, but the news or police helicopters have a right to be there. What is more annoying to me are the low flyovers from communiting traffic that pass over my house on their way to the Wall Street Heliport (live in Gowanus, work in Flatbush).

    @ ten years on cortelyou @ Nora Whelan

    no loitering laws have all generally been thrown out by the courts as you have a right to legally “loiter” on a New York City sidewalk as long as you are not breaking another law. Here is the law:


    No ball playing, no loitering, no skateboarding, no bicycling signs, etc. posted on a building that refer to the public sidewalk are simply the wish of the management company or owner. They are legally unenforcable. But that doesnt mean you can’t ask the person to stop.

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