A handful of residents approached the East Hampton Town Board during its Thursday, February 21 meeting, concerned about whether or not residents of Noyac would find relief from helicopter traffic this summer season, and the potential reclassification of the East Hampton Airport into a “regional airport” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
During the public portion section of the meeting, Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) member Bob Malafronte confronted the board about the upgrade, asking if the town had any input in this change by the FAA.
On Monday, Quiet Skies Coalition Chair Kathy Cunningham said Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley, who was absent from the meeting, was looking into the issue. However, the QSC remained concerned enough about this situation to send a statement out on Monday morning.
“The Quiet Skies Coalition has just leaned that the FAA, months ago, classified the East Hampton Airport not as a ‘local’ facility but as a ‘regional airport,” the second highest of four categories of General Aviation Airports,” said the organization.
According to the QSC, the four heliports in Manhattan are not classified in any of the four categories – national, regional, lower and basic – although they are also considered general aviation airports.
Although the designation of the East Hampton airport as “Regional” appears in an appendix to a May FAA report, neither airport management nor town board airport liaison, Councilman Dominick Stanzione, has made that designation public, charges QSC.
“I am shocked”, said Cunningham, “that our local airport is seen by Washington as regional. I note that the document including that determination defines ‘regional airports’, in part, as ‘always in a metropolitan area’ where ‘jet and turboprop flying is prominent’ and includes ‘international flying’. These are hardly appropriate descriptions of our airport or our community.”
On Monday, Cunningham said the implication in this classification of the airport is that safety standards will be stricter and more expensive to comply with than what would be required for a basic or local airport, making the argument for FAA funding – and therefore grant restrictions – stronger.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said in an interview that he did not believe the reclassification was something that happened behind closed doors with any member of the town board. While town attorney John Jilnicki was looking into the matter, early research indicated that the FAA reclassified the East Hampton Airport along with about 3,000 other airports based on its usage.
“This is not a case where the town went in and tried to get an upgrade or applied to increase this from local to regional,” he said. “I think it was innocent.”
Wilkinson said Jilnicki was researching what, if any, impact this would have on the airport and the town board would address any issues that arise with the reclassification if it does in fact impact operations or maintenance of the airport.
Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loreto, offering the board a faux olive branch, asked the town board if they would attend a meeting organized by the NCC with members of the Southampton Town Board, Congressman Tim Bishop and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
While the date of that meeting has yet to be scheduled, the board appeared amenable to the idea.
She also asked if there was any hope of relief for residents of Noyac, who bear the full brunt of helicopter traffic after a Jessup’s Neck route into the East Hampton Airport from the North Shore became the lone suggested route for helicopter traffic.
Stanzione said the airport manager and other professionals would be reviewing the noise abatement program and will bring a recommendation to the board within the next 30 to 60 days.