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Tue, May 21, 2024

Vertical Aviation International Briefs Members on Eastern Market Lobbying

Construction Work Poses Risk to West 30th St Heliport

Vertical Aviation International Regional Rep Josh Rousseau briefed VAI members at the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council about the group's work on preserving infrastructure and airspace access throughout the often contentious New York City and New Jersey markets.

One item of interest is the Gateway Project, a planned phased expansion of the Northeast Corridor rail line between NJ and NYC. That project would add new rail bridges and tunnels under the Hudson River, building on existing tunnel work from a century prior. The improvements should double rail passenger capacity throughout the Northeast US, rendering yet another challenge to aerial supremacy as the go-to for the high-falootin' of the city. 

"What happens in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area sets the tone for future activities and investments in our industry and often serves as a model for the rest of the country," said Rousseau. "While VAI supports much-needed new transit projects in this region, they are threatening existing vertical aviation infrastructure that is necessary for the safe and profitable operation of helicopter operations today and will have a significant chilling effect on the inclusion of the next generation of vertical aircraft."

As anyone familiar with city politics knows, "temporary" is all too often code for permanent once something is put into place. The Gateway project will obstruct operations at the West 30th St. Heliport (KJRA) for at least 36 months - but New York construction history may render that estimate far too rosy. The VAI knows that this is a solid pressure point to shut down helicopter operations nearby for good. They expect that the very viability of the heliport is at stake, with its operations downsized or eliminated entirely. The usual vectors these days remain effective, where opponents of aviation decry the noise, pollution, and safety of operations in the vicinity. Rousseau attended one NYC meeting from the city council's Committee on Economic Development in recent weeks, placed in the unenviable position of educating small-time bureaucrats on the fundamentals of FAA authority. Apparently they have little understanding that a state bill, A.10224/S.9408, would permanently close KJRA.

"This legislative attempt to shutter the heliport at West 30th St. is the most serious threat to this facility in over 20 years. Closure of the only 24/7 heliport with refueling capabilities in the region would lead to significant economic loss for the city and state, including the loss of jobs; an increase of congestion on local streets; and a threat to the coming introduction of the new technologically advanced vertical aircraft," Rousseau said.

In speaking to friends back east, he said the VAI will stay in the fight, but it can't always do it alone. "VAI is dedicated to the present and future of our industry and these ill-informed and dangerous efforts to close infrastructure and airspace are an existential threat to our entire industry. If these measures, and specifically the new legislation before the state legislature, are successfully advanced, the impacts will be real, irreversible, and could even start a domino effect throughout the region and the nation. It is vital that we take this situation very seriously, mobilize, and stand up for ourselves," concluded Rousseau.

FMI: www.rotor.org

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