West side heliport can stay forever, if an Assembly-passed bill becomes law

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The W. 30th Street heliport. (Simon Greig via Flickr)
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The State Assembly today passed legislation that will allow the West Side heliport to remain in place or at a nearby location in perpetuity, contrary to a 2008 court agreement requiring that the W. 30th Street heliport relocate or close by the end of 2014.

The bill in question, which just passed the Assembly and is expected to soon pass the Senate and be signed into law, gives the heliport's operator, Air Pegasus, the option of moving it to a barge 1,000 feet off the W. 30th Street shore.

“The bill does not set a deadline for moving the heliport [off-shore], but I think there are a lot of forces including [Hudson Yards developer] Related that will be pressing very hard to move it,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who carried the bill with his colleague, Deborah Glick.

Related Companies is developing Hudson Yards between 30th and 33rd Streets, 10th and 12th avenues.  

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“In theory if things don’t work out well, it could either stay for a longer time or we might need to change the law to put in a deadline,” Gottfried acknowledged, when I asked him if, in theory, the heliport could stay in place in the middle of Hudson River Park forever.

The west side heliport, which can accommodate 11 helicopters, is one of three in Manhattan. It is the only Manhattan landing available 24 hours a day for emergency and refueling purposes.

In 2011, there were 9,304 flights out of the heliport, according to a 2012 Parsons Brinckerhoff report on the topic. Back when tourists flights were allowed there, it accommodated more than 26,000.

In 2008, after neighborhood organizations grew weary of the incessant noise emanating from the mid-park heliport, the state-and city-run Hudson River Park Trust agreed to a court settlement requiring the 30th Street heliport to relocate (or close) by the end of 2012. That date was later pushed back to the end of 2014.

The Trust also committed to exploring the relocation of the heliport to Pier 72 (at 32nd Street) “or some other permitted location as soon as reasonably possible.”

The Trust subsuquently evaluated the possibility of moving the heliport to Piers 76,78, and 80, but those locations were deemed unsuitable, according to someone familiar with the heliport negotiations.

The legislation now in play in Albany obviates the need for all that.

“I think it's a severe blow to Hudson River Park,” said Al Butzel, former president of the Friends of Hudson River Park, in an email. “The helicopter noise is a continuous nuisance at the very center of the Park. It is only the misguided priorities of the Bloomberg administration and the powerful helicopter lobby that allows so many to be negatively affected for the benefit of so few.”

The Bloomberg administration had no comment. Nor did Air Pegasus, which is represented by SKD Knickerbocker, the consulting and government-relations firm which also represents the Trust. 

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment until the legislation is finalized,” said Knickerbocker executive Stefan Friedman, on behalf of the Trust.