A group opposed to the growth at East Hampton Airport was unsuccessful in its first bid to stop East Hampton Town officials from obtaining a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant last week.
But attorney Jeffrey Bragman says the fight is far from over.
On Wednesday, December 7 at the New York State Supreme Court building in Riverhead, Justice John J. J. Jones, Jr. rejected Bragman’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the town from taking FAA funding.
Bragman was representing The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, among other residents, in his attempt to obtain the TRO. The anti-noise and growth activists have argued that by taking FAA grants, the town will be prevented from gaining control over East Hampton Airport and the noise it produces from air traffic streaming in and out of the Wainscott facility, particularly in the summer months.
A day before Bragman sought the restraining order, the East Hampton Town Board unanimously passed a resolution stating it would apply for a grant to the FAA for the engineering of a deer fence around the perimeter of the airport. At the same meeting, town board members and aviation attorney Peter Kirsch vowed to implement aspects of a comprehensive noise abatement plan to deal with noise generated by the airport.
As a result of last week’s ruling, the town can move forward with its grant application, which according to town board member and airport liaison Dominick Stanzione said was filed last Tuesday, shortly after the board made its decision. When the FAA will rule on the town’s request, he said, was unknown.
“I would hope it happens sooner rather than later,” he said.
However, on Monday Bragman said the court’s decision was by no means unusual, pointing to the difficulty gaining a temporary restraining order in the first place. An application for a preliminary injunction to prevent the town from accepting the FAA grant money is still pending, said Bragman. He added that Justice Jones did not base his decisions on the merits, or lack thereof, of the ongoing case between his clients and the town over the environmental review of the town’s Airport Master Plan.
On Monday, Stanzione said he was confident in the town’s ability to win the next leg of the case, and remained focused on the future — a future he said was focused on working closely with the FAA to curtail noise generated by the airport.
“We need to work closely with them in establishing a Class D airspace around the airport,” said Stanzione.
If the airport had Class D airspace surrounding it, an air traffic controller would have control over aircraft up to 2,500-feet above and 10-miles around the airport.
Stanzione said developing and maintaining a strong relationship with the FAA would allow this federal designation to move forward, which coupled with a control tower could give residents some relief when it comes to noise.
“In order to provide immediate relief from helicopter and other aviation noise from this coming season, and it seems to be generally believed the control tower will do that, we need to have cooperation with the FAA,” he said.
Stanzione said he was also working with a regional task force to re-route helicopter traffic to a second southern route over Georgica Pond in East Hampton.
Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney, will work with the town board to present a comprehensive noise abatement plan for the airport that will be presented in the next 60 to 90 days, said Stanzione. The town board will look at everything from the most effective and least expensive ideas to curb airport noise to the most expensive and least effective and evaluate which concepts the town should latch onto after studying that matrix, he said.
However, in the immediate, the town board will continue to seek approval to create Class D airspace around the airport immediately, and hopes to finalize its contract for the creation of the seasonal control tower in the next two weeks. In the next month, Kirsch said the town should hope to secure the next FAA grant, finalize a management program for the control tower and formalize a protocol for collecting and studying noise and safety data from the airport.
The town board will also look to adopt a new policy on the role of the airport in the next month, according to Kirsch’s presentation, and in the next two months will develop a strategy and timetable to implement helicopter restrictions at the airport, although what those restrictions will be remains unknown. According to Kirsch’s report, among the capital projects the town will explore at the airport is the installation of dedicated helipads, meaning it is unlikely plans are in place to ban helicopters altogether.
A nighttime curfew does appear to be on the table, according to Kirsch’s presentation.
The seasonal control tower is expected to be installed as early as March.
“We are being as comprehensive as we can,” said Stanzione. “And as always when I speak about the airport, it is important to acknowledge it contributes to our community and is an important asset to our town.”