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Editorial: Helicopter tours from waterfront is a fascinating idea

Anyone who has ever taken a helicopter ride understands that the idea of being able to take a flying tour of the waterfront is pretty cool.

Right now, it’s just a concept being put forth by Mike Campbell, owner of FlyBuffaloNY, working with Carl and William Paladino’s Ellicott Development.
Campbell would operate his company from a heliport to be constructed at 20 Buffalo River Place, off Ohio Street and not far from Silo City.

Activity would take place on a 5.9-acre parcel of vacant land owned jointly by Ellicott and Benderson Development Co. Benderson has applied for a special-use permit from the Common Council. The application is to be reviewed by the Buffalo Planning Board today.

The goal is to be able to offer tours and charter flights, while providing landing space for emergency medical services, media outlets and law enforcement.

There is certainly a “wow” factor to this proposal.

Soaring above the city would offer spectacular views of kayakers on the meandering Buffalo River and sailboats out on the lake. The flights would offer residents a new perspective on the city and also give visitors one more activity to keep them around.

Business startups and the jobs they bring are important to the future of the city. But there are potential drawbacks to the heliport to be considered during the planning process. There will be environmental impacts, especially noise, that need to be fully investigated.

Kate Gorman, who visits the Silo City area for kayaking and other activities, has expressed her concerns about the heliport’s proximity to a city neighborhood, noise and localized high winds from the helicopter downdraft. She pointed out that arts and cultural organizations have gained a foothold at Silo City, holding events such as concerts and poetry readings that could be disturbed by the noise. She recently wrote a letter to Everybody’s Column imploring people to attend the Planning Board meeting.

These issues must be dealt with responsibly, something company principals should keep in mind as planning proceeds.

Campbell said that helicopters have become quieter and “more eco-friendly and environmentally sound by nature.”

Showing evidence of that should help new commerce coexist with history and culture on the waterfront.

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