Tag Archive | "airport"

Committee Says Airport Can Stand on its Own

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Members of East Hampton’s budget and financial advisory committee dropped a bit of a bombshell on Tuesday when they told the town board that the town would be able to continue operating the airport for the foreseeable future without accepting additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Whether the town could afford to maintain the facility without federal largesse has long been a bone of contention, with airport supporters saying the grants are needed to maintain the airport and opponents saying the town will not be able to control the facility as long as it continues accepting federal aid and the restrictions that come with it.

“Some people held the conclusion that the airport would fall apart if you did not take FAA money. This report disproves that,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who nonetheless added he would not close the door on the possibility the town would need FAA funding in the future.

“Clearly, your financial analysis shows we can move forward at least in the immediate and interim future, that we can finance the airport, that we can keep it safe, and that we can make the improvements that are absolutely necessary and do that for some period of time without taking FAA money,” he said.

The report was presented to the board by Arthur Malman, the chairman of the budget advisory committee, and Peter Wadsworth, one of its authors, who told the board the airport will be able to generate enough cash flow to adequately cover its long term debt servicing needs.

Both men stressed that the group that worked on the report represented a cross-section of airport supporters and opponents and had reached their conclusion unanimously.

In compiling the report, the committee assumed varying scenarios, ranging from no changes in airport traffic to one in which there were no helicopter flights. They also assumed that the town could realize modest revenue growth by raising fees to offset expected increases in expenses.

The scenario is even more rosy, Mr. Wadsworth said, if the town takes advantage of a number of options to enhance revenue from the airport. Among the options the committee found beside raising landing fees and fuel charges include requiring paid parking, renegotiating hangar leases, possibly adding additional hangars, developing 15 vacant lots on Industrial Road as well as the potential for developing a massive solar farm on the northern end of the airport.

Mr. Malman added that the airport property encompasses some 600 acres, with much of it zoned for industrial uses, which is in high demand. He added, though, that any development schemes would require careful analysis by the town’s planning and natural resources departments.

He added that the town has the potential to turn the airport into a major source of revenue, when the last of the FAA grant restrictions expire in 2022. Because of those restrictions, any revenue raised at the airport must be spent there. But after they expire, the town would be able to use operating surpluses to reduce taxes.

“It may become a very significant source of nontax revenue,” he said. “The bad news is there has to be a little thought given as to how you set this thing up” to make sure the airport properly maintained.

Officials Push for Quieter Southern Route to Airport

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By Karl Grossman

 Having substantially more helicopters fly to and from East Hampton Airport on a “southern route”—south of Long Island and over a strip of land which includes Georgica Pond—was a main theme at a meeting of officials last week at the field.

East Hampton Airport has been the biggest source of public complaints about noise generated by commercial helicopters taking people between Manhattan and the Hamptons of any airport on Long Island. Francis Gabreski Airport in Westhampton is the second most troublesome field for chopper noise complaints followed by the Southampton Village helipaid.

Earlier in the year, an agreement was worked out between Congressman Tim Bishop, Senator Charles Schumer and helicopter operators to change the flight paths of the choppers to reduce noise.

 “Now that we’ve had a season under our belt, what is clear is that the numbers of helicopters using a northern route”—one that has included the North Fork and Shelter Island—to and from East Hampton Airport “is 80 percent, while 20 percent have been using the southern route,” said Jon Schneider, aide to Congressman Tim Bishop, a participant at the September 30 meeting. “What can be done to get the numbers closer to 50-50?”

The situation now is “unfair to a lot of North Fork and Shelter Island residents,” said Mr. Schneider. “Ultimately, you have to look at what’s fair.”

The “southern route” would involve, said Mr. Schneider, choppers going to and from Manhattan and East Hampton Airport by flying over the ocean just off the south shore barrier beaches and over the Georgica Pond strip.

But a key issue in getting more helicopters to fly this route is dealing with space restricted to chopper traffic over and near John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens.

 “Tim Bishop and Chuck Schumer’s offices will have to do some lifting on this with the Federal Aviation Agency,” said Suffolk Legislator Edward Romaine of Center Moriches, who was also at the meeting.

Representing Mr. Schumer at the session was his aide Gerry Petrella.

How a route along the ocean and over Georgica Pond would be effective in reducing the noise of helicopters heading to and coming from East Hampton Airport was cited last year in a proposed “Master Plan Report” for the field done by the consulting firm of Savik & Murray of Ronkokoma. “One approach and departure corridor…was found to be substantially better than the existing routes,” said the report. s the report done by route would 

Choppers could, it noted, fly over the Atlantic and “branch off” to “over-fly Georgica Pond” and a thin strip of surrounding land. “This is the minimum sound track,” it said, “and adds little if any flying distance and flight time.”

But the report went on: “It would…expose residents in this area of high value real estate to much greater noise levels than currently exist.”

At the meeting, too, Legislator Romaine said he pressed for federal action to require manufacturers of helicopters to build them with substantially less-noisy engines, similar, he said, to federal mandates to build less noisy fixed-wing jet aircraft.

Among others at the meeting was Jim Brundige, the East Hampton Airport manager.