Despite city-wide ban, Amazon wants to put a rooftop helipad on its NYC HQ

November 13, 2018

Image: Maxpixel CC public domain.

On the heels of news that Amazon has chosen Long Island City, Queens for one of its two new headquarters, making the promise of 25,000 new jobs a hopefully-someday reality, comes the fine print request that the company would like a helipad for its new East River waterfront HQ, please. Slate reports that the request appears deep in a 32-page memorandum of understanding with the city and state.

Private helicopter flights from atop office buildings were more popular in the 1960s and ’70s; the most famous lifted off from the roof of the 59-story Pan Am (later MetLife) building on a regular basis–until a grisly helicopter accident killed four waiting passengers and a pedestrian below in 1977.

Since that time the practice has been discouraged and banned outright since 9/11. To be fair, we don’t know whether the company’s proposed helipad will, in fact, be on a rooftop. But we do know that the City Council has also discouraged helicopter use in general in recent years due to noise complaints.

While the company reportedly has pledged not to let anyone else use the helipad (?!), to keep its use to 120 landings a year and to pay for it themselves (the state is covering most of its other construction costs), it doesn’t sound like a huge vote of confidence for a public transportation system that could use a few votes.

Amazon’s agreement with the state doesn’t require the company to make any contributions to the subway system, though the company will make “payments in lieu of property taxes” that will, in part, go to an “Infrastructure Fund” earmarked for projects “including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, utility relocations, environmental remediation, public open space, transportation, schools and signage,” within the neighborhood of the new HQ.

The helipad project may turn out to be one of many potential clashes between Amazon and the New York City Council, which was bypassed in city and state’s negotiations with the company. And it may appear to some as a symbol of the Silicon Valley ethic of chafing against the rules that keep a city running for everyone else in the name of innovation.

[Via Slate]


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