By Annette Hinkle
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s Noyac Civic Council meeting. There were just two items of discussion on the agenda — but both were contentious … and both had to do with traffic, one on roads and the other in the skies.
For years, the stretch of Noyac Road in front of Cromer’s market and the Whalebone General Store has been a traffic trouble spot that many residents consider hazardous not only for drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists as well. So in 2011, Southampton Town allocated $450,000 to highway department superintendent Alex Gregor to re-engineer that part of Noyac Road. Gregor’s final plan, known as 7A, included the widening of the road, installation of a raised center median and a plan to turn Bay Avenue into a one-way feeding traffic into the Pine Neck neighborhood.
It was this last component of 7A which raised the ire of residents and pitted them against the highway department in recent months. On Tuesday night, Throne-Holst reported to the NCC that earlier in the afternoon, the town board effectively killed the proposal to move 7A forward.
“In last week’s work session, we reviewed the draft resolution and there was discussion on whether allowing it to go forward presented the opportunity for alternatives through the bidding session,” said Throne Holst referring to the board’s ability to change portions of the plan if it so desired. “I didn’t feel confident that would be the end result. When the resolution was raised today, it didn’t even get a second.”
“So it failed. There’s no funding for project 7A for Noyac Road,” said Throne-Holst to applause.
That doesn’t, however, mean Noyac Road won’t one day be calmed. Throne-Holst distributed copies of a less drastic 2009 plan for the area which many residents said they had preferred.
“We support a phased approach — like the one back in 2009 — with striping, signage some turning lanes, that sort of thing,” said Throne-Holst who encouraged residents to continue this dialogue with Gregor. “I think it’s productive to say ‘We do support something else — can we get back to the table and talk?’ If we get something to Mr. Gregor by the end of the week, we should be able to get something in place before summer.”
Meanwhile, the money earmarked for 7A will not go away. It remains dedicated to Noyac Road traffic calming, said Throne-Holst, whether it’s in front of Cromer’s or along the whole stretch of Noyac Road.
“Whatever the right combination of measures is, that’s what we should do — knowing we have the money for it,” she said.
Turning to the skies, the second topic of the evening was, of course, helicopter noise — an issue that evokes strong emotions whenever it is raised in the company of Noyac residents.
And Tuesday was no exception.
Helicopter noise has long been an issue in Noyac — but last July, complaints spiked after the Jessup’s Neck flight path over the hamlet became the only route used by helicopters flying into and out of East Hampton Airport. Hoping to bring some relief, since last October, Throne-Holst reported she has been navigating the system in search of solutions.
“This has been very time consuming,” added Throne-Holst who said she has been working with Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Chuck Schumer to achieve “a laundry list of things” that might improve the situation.
She added that a week ago, she met with Bishop, Thiele and a representative of the FAA who maintained that the northern route over Noyac was currently the only one approved by the FAA. Throne-Holst added that she was told the so-called “southern route” over Georgica Pond was not one the FAA currently approves.
“Our opinion was the number one and easiest solution would be for that route to be an approved route,” said Throne-Holst. “We’re hoping the FAA will approve both routes and put some guidelines in place where at least half of the flights would go on one route, half the other.”
“The long and short of it is, the only entity that can make that happen is the FAA,” she added. “They don’t want to be influenced by municipalities like ours. It’s very frustrating.”
A point of contention for several audience members was determining exactly who decided Jessup’s Neck was the only approved route, since prior to July, helicopters were also using a route over Northwest Woods in East Hampton. They maintain it was not the FAA, but rather East Hampton Town Board member Dominick Stanzione who unilaterally decided to shut down that second route over Northwest Woods last summer. By endorsing the Jessup’s Neck Route, the FAA, they contend, is backing up Stanzione’s move after the fact.
“All that may be so,” countered Throne-Holst. “But it doesn’t change the fact that, no matter how it came about, today the FAA recommended route, the one pilots are told to use, is over Jessup’s Neck.”
“Now what they’re talking about is a combination of two routes — one an arrival route and one a take off route — that would be Jessup’s Neck and the Northwest route,” said Throne Holst. “But what we heard from the Long Island pilot’s association is they don’t want to go that way [the Northwest route] – it adds time and fuel costs.”
Throne Holst added that the FAA’s representative told her she would have to get voluntary compliance from the pilots association and that’s the best she can do.
“I think we’ve reached a point where we need to come up with a set of requests, invite representatives from East Hampton Town Board and the pilot’s association and implore them to bring these requests to their members and say this is what we stand behind,” she added. “If they don’t agree, there will be a legal action against the town board and the pilots association.”