Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jerrold Nadler (10th District of New York)
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Today, New York City Members of Congress, led by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who represents the Upper West Side of Manhattan – including Central Park – and parts of Brooklyn, sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell demanding the FAA institute Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) during outdoor performances of The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival.
In a joint statement, NYC Reps. Nadler, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) said:
“Over the past months and years, the helicopter traffic at night over Central Park has steadily gotten worse and every evening the constant noise generated from hovering and flying helicopters over the Delacorte Theater has interrupted the performance of the Shakespeare in the Park shows, and disrupted what is a cherished New York City summer tradition. This quintessential New York experience is being threatened by the noise generated by the helicopter traffic, which is why we are requesting that that the FAA institute Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) over Central Park during the summer evenings of the outdoor performances of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. While we hope that the FAA is finally considering stronger regulations to deal with congestion and excessive noise generated from helicopter traffic in the sky, we request a fix that could be done immediately, and would give our constituents confidence that the FAA understands the depth of this quality of life issue, and will address the problem.”
“Free Shakespeare in the Park is one of the most beautiful expressions of democratic culture in the world,” said Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director for The Public Theater. “It is truly art for the people. To allow a few commercial helicopters to disrupt the lives of many New Yorkers and the joy of two thousand audience members a night is a gross civic indecency and one that can be easily rectified. I want to thank Congressman Nadler for his support on this issue as he works to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”
“If the ringing of a single cell phone can disrupt the cadence of an entire performance, imagine the impact caused by near-constant, low-flying helicopters,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “A temporary flight restriction in the sky above the theater during the summer performance months would spare audiences the deep humming of chopper blades, and enable them instead to enjoy the sights and sounds of the theater while demonstrating respect for the performers, who have invested hours of work in preparation for any given show. Shakespeare wasn’t meant to be accompanied by hovering helicopters.
“Perhaps the most crucial need for live theatre to work is connection: crucially that between audience and performer,” said actor Chukwudi Iwuji, who stars in the staging of Othello in the title role. The misconception is to believe that this connection is a given once the performance begins. It isn’t. It’s something that needs to be reached for, cajoled, nourished… and maintained. This task is made almost impossible by the encroaching sound of engines. It is a constant worry for the actor that this delicate connection is lost and time and time again during a performance. Think about it, some of the greatest imagery ever set down is lost to the thunder of rotors and diesel.
“There is nothing more magical than sharing the words of the greatest writer in the English language with 1,800 fellow New Yorkers under the summer skies of Central Park,” said actor Corey Stoll, who stars as Iago in the staging of Othello. “Performing Shakespeare is incredibly challenging, but so is being an audience member. It takes time and focus to tune one’s ear to the rich and unfamiliar language. When a helicopter passes overhead at the Delacorte it not only obscures that language— it obliterates the delicate connection the audience has with the play. As performers, producers, designers, and crew members, we have collectively dedicated thousands of hours and the audience has waited for their seats— often lining up before dawn. The tickets may be free, but every performance represents thousands of hours of New Yorkers most valuable asset—time.”
Representative Nadler will also be holding a press conference today at 5:00 PM with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater, to request the TFR over Central Park be issued during the May through August performances.
Members of Congress who signed on to the letter include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-7), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). A full copy of the letter sent to the FAA Acting Administrator can be found below, and here:
August 10, 2018
Daniel K. Elwell
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Elwell:
We are requesting that the FAA institute Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) over Central Park during the summer evenings of the outdoor performances of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Over the past months and years the helicopter traffic at night over Central Park has steadily gotten worse. The constant noise generated from hovering and flying helicopters over the Delacorte Theater has interrupted the performance of the shows, and disrupted what is a cherished New York City summer tradition.
The Public has a rich history that spans more than fifty years. Founded by the legendary Joseph Papp in 1962, The Public is regarded as one of the country’s foremost cultural institutions. The Public’s signature Shakespeare in the Park program is a beloved New York institution, distributing free tickets to open-air Shakespeare performances featuring many of the country’s leading actors. Since its inception, free Shakespeare in the Park has been seen by nearly five million people, and keeps their productions accessible by offering free or low-cost theater performances and educational and community programming.
This quintessential New York experience is being threatened by the noise generated by the helicopter traffic. For decades, helicopter flights over New York City and in the surrounding region have impacted the quality of life of our constituents, and our skies are inundated by the large numbers of tourist helicopters. These flights are dangerous to the public, cause noise pollution, and have a negative impact on people living in a dense, urban community. Since 2007, there have been at least 8 helicopter accidents over the City of New York. And just recently on March 11, 2018 a helicopter carrying sightseeing tourists crashed into the East River in New York City, killing the five passengers on board. On each occasion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to sufficiently act to regulate helicopter traffic.
While you are considering stronger regulations to deal with congestion and excessive noise generated from helicopter traffic in the sky, we request a fix that could be done immediately, and would give our constituents confidence that the FAA understands the depth of this quality of life issue, and will address the problem.
We urge you to issue a TFR for outdoor performances of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival during the May through August performances with the exception of law enforcement and emergency flights. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.