This week, Vertical Aviation International (VAI) Northeastern US Regional Representative Josh Rousseau briefed VAI members and stakeholders in different venues, including at the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council, on the association’s efforts to preserve infrastructure and airspace access in the New York City/New Jersey region.

“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.”

VAI Northeastern US Regional Representative Josh Rousseau spoke to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council about the association’s efforts in the New York City/New Jersey area.

Rousseau discussed the Gateway Project, which is the planned phased expansion and renovation of the Northeast Corridor rail line between New Jersey and New York City. The project will build new rail bridges and new tunnels under the Hudson River while also rehabilitating the existing 1910 tunnel. The improvements are designed to double train capacity to create a much improved high-speed rail service for the Northeast US corridor.

The Gateway project will temporarily obstruct operations at the West 30th St. Heliport (KJRA) for at least 36 months. Many anti-helicopter advocates want to seize this moment to put the viability of the heliport in doubt and even fight for its permanent closure while KJRA’s footprint is reduced. Rousseau is fighting to mitigate the impacts to operations and preserve the facility for current and future use.

He also addressed serious concerns about legislative attempts to shutter much of the airspace in and around New York City. He discussed his recent experience in front of the city council’s Committee on Economic Development for a public hearing on “helicopter safety and noise,”  where he explained that legislation before the Council is illegal due to the FAA’s exclusive authority over the nation’s airspace, while also emphasizing the association’s dedication to community compatibility.

Rousseau shined a bright light on a measure introduced just this week in the New York state legislature, A.10224/S.9408, that 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,” said Rousseau.

He highlighted the association’s urgent outreach and communication strategy to mitigate impacts on operations and facilities in the region, including a robust advocacy effort to educate elected officials about the benefits of the West 30th St. Heliport and the dramatic negative effects on New York, now and in the future, if legislators close it.

“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.

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