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Transcript: Mayor Adams, NYCEDC Move to Transform Downtown Manhattan Heliport Into First-of-its-Kind Hub for Sustainable Transportation, Local Deliveries

November 13, 2023

Andrew Kimball, President and CEO, New York City Economic Development Corporation: Good morning.  Good morning. Thank you for joining us on this bright, brisk and bold morning for urban aviation. My name is Andrew Kimball, and I'm president and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, known as EDC. As many of you know, EDC works on many different things across New York City from huge transformative development projects like Willets Point in Queens, SPARC Kips Bay in Manhattan and the recently announced Staten Island North Shore Action Plan.

But we also manage 225 properties across 64 million square feet of space, over 170 different capital projects all while working to grow the innovation sectors of today and the future, ensuring that we are building neighborhoods where people live, learn, work and play. We're here today to mark a new chapter for one of our most popular assets by embracing new technology and partnering with the private sector to drive more sustainability in our city. This new vision is going to change New York City skies and waterways for the better, improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers, creating a cleaner, greener and quieter New York.

If you look behind me, you might be wondering what are those interesting looking helicopters and is this a Westworld set? They're electric vehicle takeoff and landing aircraft, also known as eVTOLs, and they're the future of the aviation industry providing quieter, more sustainable options for urban aviation.

We're fortunate enough today to be joined by some of the leading innovation companies producing eVTOLs, including Joby, and its CEO, JoeBen Bevirt, Volocopter and its managing director, Christian Bauer, and representatives from several other companies as well.

Before I turn it over to the mayor, I want to make sure that I'm acknowledging some of the people who are here with us today who helped make today possible. On the city side, I, of course, want to thank my partner in everything we do, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, who continues to lead our city's recovery through our economic development, housing and workforce portfolio.

I want to thank DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, who's been an invaluable partner when it comes to bolstering and developing our blue highways, moving more goods on our waterways, reducing traffic on our streets and more on that in a moment.

I also want to thank our elected officials joining us here today, including Councilmember Chris Marte, Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblyman Charles Fall, advocates Roland Lewis and Melissa Epstein from Stop the Chop who have long pushed for quieter skies, and Steven Jackson, the principal from Aviation High School.

I also want to thank our partners at the federal level, particularly Tom Morkan, the Northeast Gateway director at U.S. DOT Maritime Administration who've been working closely with us on our peers and our Blue Highways Initiative.

Now I have had the chance to collaborate with Eric Adams for over 20 years. First as state senator and then as Brooklyn Borough President when I led the redevelopments of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Industry City. He's a man who caress deeply about economic development, public private partnerships and embracing new technologies.

As the Mayor has often said, this administration cannot be afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to innovation, and that's exactly what we're doing here today. Ladies and gentlemen, the get stuff done mayor, Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks so much, Andrew. I'm just really excited about this moment and I remember a few years ago when I was hearing about the electrification of helicopters, I thought about you right away because you complain about the noise all the time.

And just to see the principal of Aviation High School and these amazing companies and watching how simple it is to use one of these devices, you know, within our lifetime, many of you are going to own your own personal electric helicopter.

I mean, this is just unbelievable when you think about it. It's no different than a joystick on a video game. The partnership with the companies to allowing our young people to use it now in schools, we're going to have to build out mechanics, we're going to build out operators, we're going to build out who's going to build these helicopters.

The pipeline is just unbelievable what we're about to accomplish here in the city. And I can't thank Andrew, EDC, and our amazing deputy mayor enough for realizing that we cannot be afraid of the future. This must be a city of yes, where we lean into the possibilities of not only what we do on the ground, but what we do in our skies.

To be able to, number one, move faster to and from our places, the airports or other location, but to do it in a clean, green way and allow our young people to earn some clean green dollars in the process as they learn how to operate these devices, repair these devices and design these devices.

This is only the first level. This is unbelievable, what the next evolution… Just think about we went from a Walkman where we just had tapes, cassette tapes to an iPhone or other Samsungs, with other phones where we have everything on these devices.

So, this first evolution is just the beginning and we are just excited here in the city. So, really thank all of our partners for this amazing day that we are living through right now. We see this as the starting point, not the ending point. Our investment in this technology and the use of this technology is going to allow us to have cleaner skies and stay true to our mission that we stated all the time.

Here at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, we are going to establish the rurals first heliport with infrastructure for electric-powered helicopters of this nature. First, the first one in this country, and we're going to reimagine the assets as a new hub for sustainable transportation.

As Andrew has mentioned, we're opening requests for proposals for a future operator of this site. It's a very important site, I've flown out of here from time to time, so they can build the transport infrastructure of tomorrow. This is a bold new vision on what we want to accomplish as a city, and now we know how important it is to just also bring down the noise. And as I just learned, how far the noise can travel. This is real science at its best and real opportunities.

This project will also build out our Blue and Marine Highway network. We have to get trucks off our street with the continuous use of delivery services to be able to move trucks off our streets and use our waterways and use a better infrastructure of delivery is going to help in cleaning our environment.

So, when you add all of this to the electric vehicles, the EV charging stations, when you look at the electrification of our school builders, looking at our city fleet, you see a very aggressive move that we are doing as we move towards 2030, we are moving in the right direction. So, you can feel the electricity in the air, you're going to see it in the air with this great, great innovation and introduction, how we're going to move around our city.

Just really hats off. Hats off to the whole team, to all of you, my colleagues in government, for getting this stuff done. This is the continuation of our Working People's Tour. How do we get it right now? City of Yes. Thank you very much.

Kimball: Thank you, Mayor Adams. And I just want to build on a point that you made before I introduce our next speaker. Part of what we do at EDC in the city with this announcement is working to drive industry to a more widespread adoption of this technology.

It's our responsibility to ensure that we're positioning New York at the forefront of this exciting new industry and preparing our assets to be ready to capitalize when this technology has widespread adaptation. And while EDC and the city does not control all of the heliports throughout New York City and we certainly don't control the New Jersey Heliports where the majority of tour helicopter traffic comes from, we do control this heliport and we control the one on 34th Street and we're going to embrace this new technology at both.

In addition to the aircraft behind us, we also have on display, a charging cube over to my right. This is developed and provided by Beta Technologies, and I want to give a special thanks to them for joining us as well. This charger is the type of infrastructure that will be deployed at heliports to support electric aircraft.

And to return to our blue Highway strategy for a moment, you'll notice we have some cargo bikes here as well, highlighting the last mile and maritime freight component of this new transportation hub. Last year EDC was awarded a $5 million federal grant to work on different piers throughout the city to put infrastructure in place to receive goods via waterways and utilize cargo bikes to reduce traffic on our streets.

I encourage folks to get a good look at the rendering that we have here behind, which shows what this new infrastructure will look like with a special barge to the side where freight will come in in small packages, get on these electric bikes and get delivered to buildings and reduce track traffic and emissions on our streets.

And just a few weeks ago, we partnered with DOT on a new RFEI for the Blue Highways program to help us identify private partners throughout the city to use our waterways to move goods at this port and numerous landing sites throughout the city, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions while taking trucks off our streets and still getting us the goods we all depend on.

Lastly, I just want to say, in every one of our economic development projects and initiatives, the Mayor has made it very, very clear that it's not good enough to just gain back all the jobs we lost during covid, not just bring back the same economy we had before, but to build a more vibrant and equitable economy. And that's why we're so focused on career pathway and opportunities in this new industry. And I'm very pleased to introduce Steven Jackson, the principal from Aviation High School, responsible for teaching the next generation of pilots.

Steven Jackson, Principal, Aviation Career and Technical Education High School: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for having me here today. Thank you to EDC for inviting me as well. My name is Steven Jackson. I'm the principal of Aviation High School and it's really exciting to be here because of this new, exciting and interesting and innovative new technology with Joby and all the variety companies here today.

Our school trains students to become aviation maintenance technicians and a whole world of aviation opens up to them in New York City. It's a traditional public high school with an additional federal aviation administration licensing pathway for airframe and powerplant technicians.

And we're really excited to be a part of this day today because as New York City takes on the eVTOL travel and encourages this whole new branch of aviation with the air taxi community, our students and future students can definitely become the future technicians and pilots and managers and a whole range of jobs that open up to them in this new career pathway.

So, as a public high school principal, I definitely would love to say that this new aircraft type is going to provide a lot of quick and easier transport for the residents of New York City, which is wonderful, but it also creates job opportunities and long careers for young people that really love to work with their hands but also love new technologies because this aircraft type will have electric propulsion, composite repair, variety in-depth avionics, all the computer work that goes into it.

So, there's a lot of students out there that are interested in doing this type of work, especially when you add this new technology of the 21st century. So, we're very happy to be a part of this community.

And I have to also say, Mr. Mayor and everyone here today, New York City and New York State has had a long history in aviation. I think people forget, and it's really wonderful that you're encouraging this and developing this future aviation pathway for the residents of New York City and New York State because it's a really important feature of our community to have these companies provide these opportunities for our young people and for the residents of New York.

So, thank you very much, everybody. I have to definitely say with that, Joby Aviation has been a wonderful partner in helping us develop the curriculum pathways for our students, for helping us train our students in the near future to get the jobs in this sector so that our students can become fully certified and ready to work on their first day of graduation and be hit the ground running. So, thank you, everybody. Congratulations to everyone. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Kimball: Thank you, Steven. So, before we move to the demonstration, happy to take any questions on topic.

Question: I have a question for the mayor. From what I understand the eVTOLs are not yet FAA certified. So, how far away are we talking. When is this becoming a reality? And say for the Blue Highways, what's the timeline?

Kimball: Yeah. What's exciting is that things are moving very fast on both fronts. We've been talking to the industry, obviously, we've been talking to FAA officials, and we fully expect that these will be operational commercially in 2025 or 2026, so within the next five-year contract for this heliport.

So, what we have done is put out an RFP for a request for proposals for operators of this site and made as a requirement that they implement the kinds of infrastructure, the charging station, also the ability to bring in goods by freight that will facilitate both this site as a Blue Highway location and also as a eVTOL hub.

Question: How confident are you in the safety of this helicopter? If there's, like, a police boat, multiple fire boats, EMS, a stretcher, it's a little alarming coming up. Are we expecting something or is that just a precautionary measure?

Mayor Adams: Well, no. First of all, you got to always lean into the comfort of safety. This is, you know, new, so we want to make sure FAA is going to give us procedures and rules. FDNY, everyone is going to give us the procedures and rules when you're trying something new.

No different than any other technology that's introduced, you know, but a version of this is already being carried out in other parts of the globe. And so we're just listening to all of our safety folks to make sure we do it right. And who doesn't like a fireman around us? We always like FDNY around us, you know, so it's a good feeling.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I have a question for you. You know, you have had a major fixation on new technology, not only here, [inaudible] but robots and everything. I'm wondering if you still have your emphasis on that, that people are getting distracted by…

Mayor Adams: No. We're focused straight ahead. This is a complicated city. An exciting city. Something is always happening in this city. Every mayor that I communicated with from Bloomberg to de Blasio to even with Mayor Dinkins, my mentor who was here. He said Eric, listen, you wake up every day. If you're the mayor of the City of New York, something is always going on.

8.3 million people, 35 million opinions. And this is just the excitement of being in New York. Something's always going to be going on in the city and you have to be focused, no distractions and grind. That's what this administration is about. Straight ahead.


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