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HELL-IPORT: Climate Protesters Arrested For Blocking Blade Landing Pad

"Luxury emissions destroy our future," the protestors chanted in front of Manhattan's "V.I.P Heliport."

12:00 AM EDT on September 14, 2023

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Police arrest protestors with Extinction Rebellion for blocking the driveway to the heliport at W. 30th Street.

New Yorkers fed up with climate change — and one of the greatest symbols of humanity's hubris in the face of it — were arrested en masse for blocking the driveway to the W. 30th Street heliport on Wednesday afternoon. 

About three dozen members of Extinction Rebellion, who have been part of a movement of environmentalists frustrated at the complete lack of federal, state and city regulation of the noisy choppers, picketed at the “V.I.P. Heliport” along the Hudson River Greenway.

The group earlier this year shut down an airport in the Hamptons over its private jet use.

Choppers have become a bane for many New Yorkers in recent years, leading to noise complaints soaring during the pandemic.

The West Side heliport is one of three in the city, and it is owned by the Hudson River Park Trust, a city-state public corporation controlled by the governor, the mayor, and the Manhattan borough president. The luxury air taxi service Blade, along with aircraft for the government, police, military, emergency services, and the press, frequently use the pad.

Protestors block a driver from getting to the heliport at W. 30th Street. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Gov. Hochul last year vetoed a bill to allow people to sue over noise coming from choppers here, and efforts to reduce the amount of recreational air travel over the Five Boroughs have also struggled to take off at the city and federal level.

The protesters put themselves in the way of well-heeled travelers trying to get between their rideshare cars and the helipads, chanting that their “luxury emissions” were destroying the planet. 

“This idea that the rich can fly these luxury accouterments for convenience while the rest of us are suffering the effects of climate change is just horrible,” said Jim Gordon. 

Stunned helicopter commuters and staffers tried to get around the protesters. 

One traveler who just arrived from JFK Airport after having flown in from Las Vegas brushed off complaints about helicopter noise and pollution.

“It’s that, or I can sit on the expressway for two-and-a-half hours in a car,” said Nathan J., who said he works in cosmetics sales out in Sin City, but declined to give his full last name.

“It happens in every city, like, I live in Vegas, there’s helicopters constantly going out to the Grand Canyon and everywhere else,” he added. 

Helicopters kept arriving as protesters tried to block the luxury air travelers from driving in and out of the W. 30th Heliport. Photo: Kevin Duggan

One teacher who took part in the demonstration disagreed. 

“It’s totally unnecessary, there’s other ways to get places that don’t cause harm,” said Kelly, who also declined to give her last name. “I teach about climate change in my classroom and have been doing that for a whole generation, and meanwhile the government hasn’t done much at all, so I feel like I have to be out here applying pressure.”

As the protesters circled and blocked the entryway, Blade’s founder and chief executive, Robert Wiesenthal, showed up to personally escort his customers around the blockade. 

Wiesenthal argued that a helicopter carrying six people to the airport using “clean fuel” was preferable than an SUV with just two people. Tour helicopters can emit more than 40 times as much carbon dioxide as an average car, according to the New York Times.

When asked about the noise complaints, the heli CEO claimed they were “doing better at flying higher altitudes and flying noise abatement routes.”

But an instructor at a nearby sailing club disagreed.

“I absolutely can’t stand it,” said Michiel Pilgram, who teaches at the adjacent Hudson River Community Sailing, as he watched the protest from the sidelines. 

“I go on the water to enjoy nature and escape from city life,” Pilgram added. “Just because Mr. Rich has the money, Mr. Rich is going to fly his helicopter over my boat."

Just before 5 p.m., about an hour-and-a-half into the protest, NYPD’s Strategic Response Group started handcuffing a half dozen protesters with zip ties and loaded them into a van. 

Cops walk arrested protestors into a van. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Among the arrestees was transportation expert and Streetsblog columnist Charles Komanoff, who said activists needed to dial up their efforts. 

“It’s time to raise the stakes. If we can’t stop these things we can forget about climate progress,” he said. 

The cops gave each of the six people a summons for disorderly conduct and held them in cells at the Seventh Precinct on the Lower East Side, before releasing them after 7 p.m., Komanoff later told Streetsblog.

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