Public Health


Helen speaks at a rally against tour helicopter noise with Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Congressman Jerry Nadler (November 12, 2015). Credit: William Alatriste for the New York City Council.

For years residents have complained about relentless helicopter noise and the impact it has on their quality of life. In fact, it's an issue that resonates far beyond the Upper West Side; helicopter noise impacts everyone who lives, works, or uses public parks along helicopter tour routes citywide (and across the Hudson). Helen joined Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Margaret Chin to introduce legislation (Int. 859-2015 and Int. 858-2015) that would ban the noisiest tour helicopters, which had a committee hearing in November 2015. The Administration was then able to negotiate a deal with the helicopter industry that banned tourist helicopter flights on Sundays and reduced these flights by 50% the rest of the time.

New York City and State pension funds together invest over $8 billion in companies that mine, drill, and produce fossil fuels. The value of these companies is highly dependent on their untapped reserves of coal, oil, and gas, but governments around the world are acting to keep fossil fuels in the ground to prevent climate catastrophe. In other words, due to worldwide pressure and government regulation, it is financially responsible to divest from fossil fuels. In September 2015 Helen and Council Member Costa Constantinides sent a letter to the City's five pension boards calling on them to study both phasing out of fossil fuel investments and investing in renewable energy companies. In November she joined forces with State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, who are leading the issue at the State level, to ask both the City and State Comptrollers to divest our pensioners' retirement savings from fossil fuels in an op­-ed that ran in Crain's.

A plant-based diet benefits personal health, the environment, and animals. It can offer health benefits in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, and it uses fewer resources and causes less pollution than an animal-based diet. Helen wanted to promote the public health benefits of a reduced-meat diet, so she teamed up with Council Member Corey Johnson to introduce a resolution proclaiming all Mondays to be “Meatless Mondays” to encourage residents to eat more plant-based meals once a week.

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