Helicopters. They’re certainly not going away anytime soon. But this week, with summer officially looming, East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige announced the airport would take some welcome and decisive steps to try and ease the burden of helicopter noise, if not eliminated, at least spread out in a more equitable fashion.
That should come as welcome news to the long-suffering Noyackers and other residents of Southampton Town who have had to bear a significant majority of the burden of helicopter noise over the course of the last year, with no political recourse nor the financial benefit of having a town asset like the airport, which lies just over the East Hampton Town border.
Now, instead of the single Jessup’s Neck route into the airport – and over primarily Southampton Town – as well as a voluntary southern route over Georgica Pond, there will be a third route the helicopter association has agreed to direct pilots to use in concert with the airport. Back for the season is the route over Northwest Woods through Barcelona Neck, which was eliminated last summer after being used as a second helicopter route into the airport since 2007.
Pilots will be asked to fly in over Jessup’s Neck and leave the airport via the Northwest Woods route, or come in either way over Georgica Pond. While all helicopter routes suggested by the town are voluntary, the good news is that the Eastern Region Helicopter Council has agreed to this, and according to Brundige, often keep their word.
While additional routes are a step in the right direction when it comes to spreading out the pain, this certainly isn’t a final solution to aircraft noise and there is still much more to consider in order to secure any significant and permanent relief.
Which is why it’s also good that this week, East Hampton Town made the decision to increase landing fees at the airport effective this season. While it’s important fees here are on par with other airports in the region, it’s perhaps even more important the airport be able to sustain itself through revenues generated by the facility. Financial independence is vital and the town must be in a position to support this asset until they are 100 percent certain that accepting FAA funding will not jeopardize the town’s ability to control the airport.
Because control is everything when it comes to airport noise. And thanks to a combination of monied residents rebounding from the recession and the increasing accessibility and affordability of air travel (not just helicopters, but sea planes as well) — airport growth is, alas, inevitable.
Which is why it’s incumbent on the town board to understand the impact of accepting more FAA funding and do everything in its power to gain control of the airport so it has the ability to impose curfews and limit certain types of aircraft at the facility.
Because frankly, there’s more at stake than disgruntled residents. If the noise issue isn’t satisfactorily resolved, the Town of East Hampton could potentially face some serious lawsuits, both from nearby municipalities and homeowners (both within the town’s borders and beyond) who feel their property values have been significantly impacted because of the noise overhead, particularly when it is a relatively small sector of our population who benefit from the existence of the airport as a major transportation hub into the Hamptons come the summer season.
So we welcome the steps the East Hampton Town Board has taken this week and appreciate the fact all board members have been actively involved in both the discussions and the decision making.
The fact of the matter is, while East Hampton Airport is an asset, ultimately, it’s one that serves a very small parentage of the population. Decisions about its future need to be made for the benefit of the many, not the privilege of the few.