One day after Congressman Lee Zeldin said at a press conference that the North Shore helicopter route was extended earlier this summer due to “political pressure” and that Senator Charles Schumer was aware of the plan 30 days prior to it being published in the Federal Register, both the FAA and Senator Schumer’s office have refuted Mr. Zeldin’s statements, and Mr. Zeldin has also issued a statement saying he plans to work with the senator on their shared goals.
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“There was no secret deal with Senator Schumer or anyone else. Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Zeldin have been unequivocal in their strong support for all over-water helicopter routes on Long Island,” said FAA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs Laura J. Brown in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“Both Senator Schumer and Congressman Zeldin have articulated the same concerns to the FAA regarding impacts to their constituents and have been equally forceful in expressing their shared position to extend the helicopter route around Orient Point, Shelter Island, and Plum Island as soon as possible,” she added. “Ultimately the FAA independently made the decision to extend the rule based on the timeline for research efforts to determine appropriate future actions on the rule, without causing a disruption to the current operating environment. The purpose of the research is to gather data on helicopter noise to inform a final route that works for the residents of Long Island and is responsive to the concerns the FAA has heard from the public.”
Mr. Zeldin also released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he spoke with a senior staffer at Mr. Schumer’s office for half an hour that morning.
“Senator Schumer’s office clearly stated that the senator supports extending the North Shore route around Orient Point while also lifting the hold to create a mandatory South Shore route. I am in full agreement that this is the solution that should be implemented as soon as possible,” Mr. Zeldin said in the statement. “As I stated yesterday, the air traffic over the North Fork is neither equitable or acceptable. A mandatory North Shore route around Orient Point and a mandatory South Shore route offshore over the Atlantic Ocean will result in less air traffic for North Fork residents and that must be the equitable and acceptable goal. I look forward to working closely with Senator Schumer and his team to see this course of action become reality.”
Senator Schumer’s office agreed.
“It is a good thing that the FAA has corrected the record here, noting the identical positions of Senator Schumer, Congressman Zeldin, and other Democrats and Republicans who represent the North Fork to create all water routes on the north and south shore as soon as possible,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro Tuesday afternoon.