Group Formed to Challenge Choppers

Posted on 18 October 2009

by Karl Grossman

It’s what has been very much needed: a group of East End citizens organized to fight the problem of noise from the helicopters ferrying people between Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Such a group took root this summer, put together by Shelter Islanders Ken Winston and Mike Loriz. Its e-mail address is helicopternoise@gmail–and the group could use your participation.

The position of politicians on the Hamptons helicopter noise issue has been mixed. Some have been active in trying to stop it, others not. The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, has taken a do-nothing posture.

Clearly, what has been needed is citizen-pressure. That, not waiting for public officials, is how things usually get done—especially when up against powerful special interests.

The group in its first weeks has been growing and moving fast. It has a very clear plan for the choppers and the main source of helicopter noise: East Hampton Airport. It is crusading to have chopper traffic fly along the Atlantic coast—far enough out so the noise won’t carry—and  then jump the short distance over Georgica into and out of the airport.

A very important point was made at a meeting on July 29th in Melville. It included Messrs. Winston and Loriz, Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Dougherty, representatives of Congressman Tim Bishop, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, a delegation from the FAA, East Hampton Airport Manager Jim Brundige, helicopter pilots and a representative from the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council.

The line of the chopper pilots and the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council was that what is being called the “Atlantic route” was not possible because it would involve flying through Kennedy Airport airspace.

However, in Mr. Loriz, they were dealing with a professional aviator—he is a pilot for Delta who flies regularly out of and into Kennedy as well as LaGuardia airports.

He explained how there is perfectly good routing below Kennedy airspace and established that the would-be excuse had to do with money, not safety.

It would take a few extra minutes—Mr. Loriz said five, the helicopter pilots said 10—to fly below Kennedy and utilize this Atlantic route.

The operating costs of the sorts of choppers that are being flown in the Hamptons commuting trade are between $250 and $500 an hour—so the extra cost would be $21 to $82.

Those taking the choppers can “afford that,” comments Mr. Winston.

Mr. Winston, who is in the investment business, was inspired to embark on the challenge to helicopter noise because of the Hamptons helicopters “flying over my house.”

The choppers have become a scourge all over the East End.

As the group says in a statement: “If you live in an urban area, or right next to an airport, you have to expect aircraft noise…. But on the East End of Long Island, the pain goes to people who get no gain, and who have no say on how the pain is apportioned.”

“The Town of East Hampton,” says the group, “has decided it likes the convenience—and landing fees—of an airport, and why not? It has shifted almost all the pain to other places like Riverhead, Cutchogue, Mattituck, Peconic, Shelter Island, North Haven, Sag Harbor and Noyac. None of these places get the benefits—fees, service—from the airport…That’s a great deal for East Hampton, but the other areas don’t get any gain and they don’t get a vote.”

The group is now working with East End officials in preparing a letter to go to Congressman Bishop and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand demanding the Atlantic route be used by the Hamptons helicopters.

So far, said Mr. Winston, Supervisor Doughterty, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell and North Haven Village Mayor Laura Nolan have signed on.

The group is asking for residents of other areas on the East End who have local officials that have not done so to contact them to have them join in the letter, too.

It calls its Atlantic route plan “an easy solution.” With it, says Mr. Winston, “we have a good chance of solving the problem.”

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