Downtown Manhattan heliport being transformed into ‘first-of-its-kind’ hub for sustainable transportation

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New York Construction Report staff writer

A new vision was presented this week for a first-of-its-kind hub for sustainable transportation and deliveries at the downtown Manhattan heliport (DMH). DMH will aim to become the first heliport in the world with 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.

City officials were joined by leading eVTOL companies to demonstrate the new technology’s ability to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

NYCEDC is requiring the future operator for DMH to ready its infrastructure in advance of certification to 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 at the DMH.

The RFP 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.

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.

“Waterfront Alliance is excited to support this next step in the city’s recommitment to its ‘Blue Highways,’” said Cortney Koenig Worrall, president and CEO, Waterfront Alliance. “We have a tremendous opportunity to not only innovate for decarbonization, but to reduce truck traffic and address supply chain stress and pressures through water-based transport. We look forward to seeing more blue economy and blue industry commitments in the future.”

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