The City Council is considering legislation that would place strict limits on the decibel level tourism helicopters would be allowed to reach within city limits. The legislation would make even stage three helicopters—the quietest of stage one, stage two and stage three helicopters—illegal.

"We've all heard the noise, literally," Brooklyn Councilman Carlos Menchaca said at a hearing on Thursday. "It has reached deafening heights. New Yorkers are fed up with the environmental and quality of life concerns."

Menchaca says the noise from overhead helicopters is of particular concern to the veterans of New York City, some of whom suffer from PTSD. And other council members reported receiving hundreds of complaints from their constituents, who find the constant roar of helicopters flying their route from the Lower Manhattan helipad on the East River and back disruptive to their everyday lives.

Sarah Sweeney, a voice actor working from home, said the choppers are particularly detrimental to her job. "The noise of these helicopters can be heard through my microphone and disrupt every single session," she said, adding that these helicopters pass by her apartment every two to three minutes. Once the noise pollutes a recording, she has to scrap it and start over again, resulting in hours of lost work. Sweeney continued, "My voice is my income and the noise of overhead helicopters is literally drowning out my ability to work."

Sightseeing helicopters "run approximately 300 flights per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—averaging one flight every two minutes over the New York Harbor and downtown Manhattan," Public Advocate Letitia James wrote in a Huffington Post editorial today, noting that exposure to aircraft noise "can cause students to suffer from learning disabilities, impaired reading comprehension, impaired cognitive ability, and impaired memory."

Pressure has been mounting to ban tourist helicopters in recent years. In July, Menchaca began drafting this bill that was met with support from organizations like Stop the Chop.

"There's no such thing as stage four helicopters, so all tour helicopters would be banned," said James Katz, Chief of Staff at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. "Our belief is that this bill requires parts and technology that do not exist, on an impossible timeline that would make them operational."

Complaints about the helicopters typically come through 311 calls, but Katz said it's far from a perfect system when it comes to pinpointing the origin of noise pollution. He maintained that the 311 complaints tend not to be about tour helicopters: Of the 1299 complaints last year, only 162 were related to these sightseeing helicopters.

Katz also pointed out that there had also been 1828 noise complaints about barking dogs, and 310 noise complaints for ice cream trucks. "No one's doing anything about those." (Not true.)

Katz continued, "While we understand your concerns, we are also mindful of the fact that there are a number of people who make their living in this industry," referring to the 219 employees who make up the commercial helicopter industry in New York City.

Council member Brad Lander wasn't persuaded by these numbers. "On one hand, there are these 219 jobs and a couple of million dollars, but there are a lot of miserable people. It's easy to calculate jobs and revenue," he said. "It's hard to measure misery."

Other council members seemed skeptical of the reports Katz and Director of Aviation David Hopkins had brought in, reporting that sightseeing helicopters are directly or indirectly responsible for $33 million in tourism revenue.

"The reason people come to New York City is because of Broadway, museums, restaurants, Central Park," said Council member Helen Rosenthal. "They're not coming for a 15-minute helicopter ride. So when the industry says they're bringing in a $30 million revenue, I need to see proof of those numbers." She went on to say that during the rally that took place before the hearing on the City Hall steps, the number had inflated from $50 million to $65 million.

Brian Tolbert, the manager of the Downtown Manhattan heliport, insisted that the bill would not only eliminate a significant amount of jobs, but a valuable enterprise. "I'm asking this committee to save our jobs, our families, and our livelihoods," he stated. "The New York City skyline is one of recognizable sights in the world. There's tremendous demand for the experience we provide and over 80% of our visitors are from foreign countries."