Chop-pa, chop-pa, Hell-ee-coppa!

The Skies are Alive, With the Sound of…


AS WEST VILLAGERS ENJOY THE SIGHTS AND PROGRAMS at the parks near the Hudson River, an increase of helicopter and small aircraft traffic over the area have become increasingly noisy and disruptive. Photo by Bob Cooley

One glorious Saturday of late, I attended an outdoor poetry reading at the intimate amphitheater atop a knoll in Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The setting was sublime, the poets well-laureled, the poetry… drowned out by all the helicopters and planes flying overhead. (Despite microphones and amplification, the human voice is little match for thumpa-thumpa-thumpa.)

By Daniel Tobin

All this late morning in the newly winnowed trees
squirrels are chirring, as though each one inside
had a miniature fan rotating urgently,

… whap, whapp, whappa…

the impossibly rapid rpms of their language.

… thump, thump…

(Is that part of the poem?)


(I can’t hear him, what did he say?)


…of leaves a few tails waving like metronomes—
the wind lifting them? Or…

…chop, Chop, CHOP…

At the conclusion of the event—after a few poems were paused intermittently or repeated a second time—the Botanic Garden’s President, Adrian Benepe, gave some closing remarks, including the impromptu observation that if you think it didn’t used to be this noisy outdoors in the city’s parks, you’re right! Apparently the overhead air traffic and tourist helicopter flights have increased significantly. He mentioned an advocacy organization he’s involved with, Stop the Chop NY/NJ, formed to limit nonessential helicopter flights over the metro area.

And Adrian Benepe knows from parks—he may be familiar to you from the decade he served as NYC’s Commissioner of Parks & Recreation—or as the son of Village View’s Barry Benepe. (Full disclosure: while I admire both men for their contributions to the city’s greenery, I don’t know them.)

Recent studies show detrimental health impacts of loud, startling or unpleasant environmental noises—not only contributing to hearing loss, but chronic noise causes stress and over time increases risks of stroke and heart attacks. You don’t have to be particularly conscious of the disruptive bang-bang to be negatively affected—and it’s worse for children’s development.

Okay (you think), that’s Brooklyn, so what?

For 25 years, Hudson River Park has served as a welcoming verdant-on-aqua respite for neighbors and visitors alike. A place for walking, strolling, sitting, biking, running, dancing… and so much more! A place to see the sky, the skyline, the sunset, the stars—and put a little space between oneself and the constant mechanical din of downtown.

Tourists—we love ’em! Though we appreciate them a bit more when they make an effort to blend in. But being strafed every three minutes, like clockwork, by low-flying helicopters grinding towards the Statue of Liberty (and offering the most envy-inducing selfie opps!)—is not exactly the background audio for a relaxing break.

For every four-seater tourist joyride in the sky, there are hundreds of actual NYers down on the ground, getting some air, enjoying the waterfront—and silently wishing you and the noisy love-bug had gone to see the Ms. Liberty in Vegas instead.

Stop the Chop NY/NJ

* Apologies to the poet for this satiric snippet. The full poem, “Hunter Gatherers,” is lovely and can be found online.