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New York City’s decision to muffle the buzz of helicopters in its airspace has pushed at least one rent-a-chopper business into bankruptcy.
New York Helicopter Charter Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection Friday after running short on cash, Chief Executive Officer Michael Roth said in a court declaration. The company’s financial woes started in 2017, Roth said, when New York City moved to cut helicopter takeoffs and landings in Manhattan.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation and Helicopter Tourism and Jobs Council brokered a deal in 2016 to cut down on the “nonstop din of helicopters” in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement at the time. The agreement halved the number of flights leaving Pier 6 in Downtown Manhattan and eliminated flights on Sundays.
The deal cut deep into Roth’s business, he said in a phone interview. He had to raise prices and is trying to conduct more flights out of a heliport in Kearny, New Jersey, where he can offer better deals to tourists hoping to get a bird’s-eye view of Manhattan.
“Took a great business and the City of New York destroyed it,” Roth said. “Eventually, with God’s help, I’ll save the business.”
Chapter 11 allows a company to continue operating while it works out a plan to pay creditors. Roth intends to use the bankruptcy to help return his business to profitability, he said.
The sightseeing and charter company has pulled in as much as $5.8 million in yearly revenue since its founding in 1998, but last year that figure fell to $3.8 million, court papers show. A 40 percent jump in landing fees also hurt the company, Roth said.
The service made about 2,800 flights last year and has 13 employees, down from 30 due to cuts over the last two years.
Low on funds, the company turned to a merchant cash advance from Fundkite in 2018, Roth said, which it ultimately couldn’t repay. Roth said he had only six payments left on the three helicopters the company operates when it filed for Chapter 11 protection.
Advocates for reducing helicopter flights in the city point to accidents, like this summer’s fatal crash in Midtown, along with the noise generated by the copters. Some members of Congress wrote to Mayor de Blasio after the crash seeking a full stop of all nonessential flights over the city.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is New York Helicopter Charter Inc., 19-13238, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
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