Joby’s electric air taxi in the skies above New York City, piloted by James “Buddy” Denham. Joby Aviation Image

DMH Aims To Be World’s First Heliport With Infrastructure for Electric Flight Technologies, Supporting Last-Mile and Maritime Freight Distribution

Quieter, More Sustainable Helicopters Will Offer Major Quality-of-Life Improvement for New Yorkers

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball today took initial steps to realize a new vision for a first-of-its-kind hub for sustainable transportation and deliveries at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH). Under this plan, DMH will aim to become the first heliport in the world with the infrastructure to support electric flight — incorporating last-mile and maritime freight distribution and delivering major quality-of-life improvements for New Yorkers by supporting quieter helicopter alternatives.

Through a new request for proposal (RFP), NYCEDC will seek an operator to upgrade the city-owned heliport to provide the supporting infrastructure for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, as well as last-mile and maritime freight delivery. The RFP also calls for plans for onsite workforce development training in aviation, maritime, and other relevant sectors. City officials were joined by leading eVTOL companies to demonstrate the new technology’s ability to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

These major steps come as part of Mayor Adams’ “Working People’s Tour,” continuing to create jobs and power New York City’s economic recovery after the city set an all-time job high record, with 4.7 million total jobs, recovering the nearly 1 million jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today, we are taking sustainability to the sky and our streets, and New Yorkers can feel the electricity in the air in our city as we electrify our heliport infrastructure,” said Mayor Adams. “Our vision for the Downtown Manhattan Heliport will create the world’s first heliport with infrastructure for electric-powered aircraft and put this public asset to work for New Yorkers as a hub for sustainable transportation and local deliveries. We will not only put New York City at the cutting edge of sustainable flight technology while addressing a persistent quality-of-life issue with helicopter noise, but also get trucks off the road and make our streets safer.”

The Adams administration’s new vision for DMH advances goals laid out in Mayor Adams’ “PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done” and the “Making New York Work for Everyone” action plan, the latter of which was created by the “New” New York panel and released by Mayor Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul late last year. Both plans highlight opportunities to expand the city’s use of its waterways to move freight off trucks and trucks off city streets. Those goals are also advanced through the New York City Department of Transportation and NYCEDC’s request for expressions of interest for the Blue Highways initiative — released earlier this month — to activate the marine highway to move goods into and throughout New York City, while reducing emissions, alleviating traffic congestion, and improving road safety.

NYCEDC is requiring the future operator for DMH to ready its infrastructure in advance of certification to position New York City at the forefront and launch the market for this emerging industry. In a first-of-its-kind event in the U.S., two eVTOL companies — Joby and Volocopter — conducted piloted demonstration flights of eVTOL aircraft from an urban heliport today at the DMH. Additionally, BETA Technologies, another company in the field, demonstrated the multimodal interoperable electric charger it developed. The heliport will deploy infrastructure to serve a similar purpose in order to support electric aircraft. Federal Aviation Administration certification is anticipated as early as 2025 with commercial flights to start shortly after.

The RFP seeks respondents who can commit to making DMH and the New York City skies quieter and more sustainable. Proposals must include:

  • Investments in supporting infrastructure, with chargers and other necessary utility upgrades required in anticipation of eVTOL certification and commercial viability;
  • Incentives to adopt quiet eVTOL technology and address community quality-of-life concerns;
  • Development of a facility for last-mile micro-distribution, as one of six waterfront assets funded in part by nearly $1 million of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) grant awarded to NYCEDC to create and support a “Marine Highway” network;
  • Required, expanded outreach to minority- and women-owned business enterprises for all work, including meeting 30 percent utilization goals for site development and construction activities; and
  • Development of workforce development training programs that improve access to career pathways in aviation, maritime, transportation, logistics, and other relevant sectors.

NYCEDC is also open to suggestions from respondents to rename the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to better reflect the new multimodal and future-forward characteristics of the facility.

Illustration of a possible last-mile marine micro-distribution configuration at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.

In 2022, NYCEDC received a $5.16 million USDOT and MARAD grant to strengthen critical freight movement on waterways by enabling landings to dock watercraft and prepare cargo for local delivery. In addition to DMH, identified harbor landings include Stuyvesant Cove. The 23rd Street Pier, and Pier 36 in Manhattan; Oak Point in the Bronx; and the 29th Street Pier in Brooklyn.

The utilization of marine highway services to transport and deliver cargo helps to reduce emissions, decrease wear and tear on roadways, alleviate supply chain bottlenecks, and move goods more quickly from ships to shelves. Additionally, the competition between sites increases transportation resiliency and redundancy, making New York City better equipped to receive goods during times of emergency or disaster.

The new operator’s concession agreement at DMH will be for five years, with up to three options for five-year renewals conditional on the build-out and activation of all requirements. The RFP application will remain open until January 12, 2024, with an operator expected to be named in spring 2024.

New York City Economic Development Corporation is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization that works for a vibrant, inclusive, and globally competitive economy for all New Yorkers. We take a comprehensive approach, through four main strategies: strengthen confidence in NYC as a great place to do business; grow innovative sectors with a focus on equity; build neighborhoods as places to live, learn, work, and play; and deliver sustainable infrastructure for communities and the city’s future economy. To learn more about what we do, visit us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.

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