2006-10-18 / Political Page

Maloney, Weiner Help Win FAA Restrictions

United States Senator Charles Schumer and Congressmembers Anthony Weiner and Carolyn Maloney led a successful campaign last week to impose some restrictions on small private airplanes flying over Manhattan.

The three lawmakers were among those seeking the curbs following the crash into the Upper East Side Belaire Condo by New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle, in which he and his flight instructor died.

According to their complaints, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last Friday banned all aircraft except seaplanes and helicopters from flying in the East River Corridor without specific permission from air traffic controllers.

Previously, Lidle and others were permitted to fly under visual flight rules- without voice contact with air traffic control- in the East River Corridor so long as they stayed below 1,100 feet. These flights were generally sightseeing forays.

After Lidle's tragic death, the lawmakers said they were shocked that five years after 9/11, private aircraft were permitted to fly over Manhattan with very little restrictions.

Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn), who had questioned the safety of these flights and even helicopter flights, said after the Lidle crash, "It's virtually the Wild West. There's no regulation at all, other than 'don't run into anything'."

He had noted: "I think everyone is scratching their heads, wondering how it's possible that an aircraft can be buzzing around Manhattan."

Schumer, emphasizing the terror implications, stated, "You can have chemical weapons, biological weapons, explosives and-God forbid-nuclear weapons on these small planes." He also noted that general aviation flights are banned over the nation's capital in Washington, D.C.

Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan), in whose district the Lidle tragedy occurred, declared, "The Upper East Side is not Disney World. People are living there."

A longtime opponent of helicopter flights over Manhattan, Maloney urged the FAA to ban all non-commercial aircraft over all Manhattan because of mile after mile of towering buildings. "Unsupervised, low-flying planes and high-rise buildings don't mix," she declared.

Maloney also noted that many small aircraft are banned from flying over Washington.

Among many others criticizing the unrestricted flights was former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who cited the high possibilities of personal tragedies such as Lidle's and also the terror threats that could easily be carried out by small planes.

On the opposite side of the issue was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a licensed pilot, who criticized the calls for restrictions. Once the FAA imposed them, however, he said he welcomed them.

RAISE LEGAL SMOKING AGE?: One of two bills to be considered tomorrow by the City Council that would raise the legal age for buying cigarettes is sponsored by Councilmember James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Under this measure, the legal age to purchase tobacco products would be increased to 19, the present age is 18. The other bill would set the new threshold at 21.

Gennaro, according to reports, based his bills on laws passed in Alaska, Alabama and Utah, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. He feels the age limit of 19 is "realistic and doable".

Gennaro, chairman of the council Environmental Protection Committee, cited data from the American Lung Association in support of his bill. These statistics show that 40 New York City school students take up smoking every day and that 13 of them will eventually die from diseases brought on by smoking cigarettes.

Surprisingly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was the main force in getting a cigarette smoking ban imposed in bars and restaurants, does not support either of the council bills. A spokesman said the mayor supports helping to curb underage smoking and expanding stopsmoking programs.

WIESENFELD BOOSTS LIEBERMAN: Former Forest Hills resident Jeff Wiesenfeld, a Democrat who worked for former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Governor George Pataki, both Republicans, recently organized a fundraiser for Senator Joseph Lieberman which raised over $100,000 for Lieberman's race against Ned Lamont.

The fundraiser, held in Manhattan, included former Mayor Ed Koch among the guests. Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary to Lamont, is running as an independent for his Connecticut seat. Despite the loss of many prominent Democrats after the primary, he is now running ahead of Lamont, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Wiesenfeld, who became a principal in a Wall Street investment firm after leaving his post with Pataki as liaison to the Jewish community, explained he decided to help Lieberman "on the night I saw Lamont's primary victory and saw him flanked by Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters and James Dean; Howard Dean's brother. The only names missing were [independent film maker] Michael Moore and [founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation Network] George Soros". (The quote was from a story in the Jewish Sentinel which Wiesenfeld had provided to us).

'CONSERVATIVE' PATAKI SKEWERED: George Marlin, who grew up in Ridgewood and is a Republican favorite in Queens, ran for mayor in 1993 on the Conservative Party line and was appointed head of the Port Authority by Governor George Pataki in 1995, just published a book in which he virtually destroys Pataki's conservative credentials.

If the book, or word of it, ever reaches Iowa or any other state where Pataki is trying to establish himself as a conservative to advance his run for president, it could seriously hurt that effort.

Marlin's book is titled Squandered Opportunities: New York's Pataki Years. In a review, Michael Cooper of the New York Times quotes from it: "New York Conservatives must face the fact that Pataki betrayed the fiscal responsibility entrusted to him in 1994." That's the year Pataki was elected on the Republican line with Conservative Party backing that gave him the edge in his upset victory over Mario Cuomo.

The "betrayal" Marlin talks about was Pataki's lavish spending "to reward cronies, placate lobbyists and contractors and neutralize municipal, healthcare and teachers' labor unions," the book says.

Pataki has been bashed by other Conservatives in recent years and his loss of this powerful force was instrumental in his not running for re-election this year.

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