Tag Archive | "east hampton airport"

Airport Curfews

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After more than two decades of hearing that nothing could be done to limit the noise coming from East Hampton Airport, there were smiles when a federal judge this week ruled that in fact East Hampton Town was within its rights when it adopted nighttime curfews earlier this year.

Starting today, the airport will be closed to all traffic between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and to extra-noisy aircraft between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

That’s good news for people living under the flight path who have grown accustomed to being awakened by the sound of a hedge fund titan’s private jet coming in for a midnight landing.

While the judge’s upholding of the curfews is a welcome sign, it is important to remember that it is only a preliminary one. Lawsuits challenging the curfews have yet to be heard.

Although the curfews will likely reduce the number of people who are awoken in the middle of the night by noisy aircraft, there is nothing in place to reduce the noise from helicopters and private jets during the early evening hours, when many East End residents say they can no longer enjoy their backyards because of the constant disturbances.

And it doesn’t look like things will slow down anytime soon, now that the judge has ruled the town cannot impose a separate limit on the number of times noisy aircraft can land or take off each week.

Blade, the helicopter ride-sharing app, has recently extended its service to include seaplanes, and a Sag Harbor resident has recently announced the launch of a new mobile app, Blue Star, which claims to be “the first-ever truly global private jet mobile app.”

In a press release about the launch, the company says it is seeing “lots of traffic coming from LA to the Hamptons.” We can’t tell you how thrilled we are by that development.

In April, residents of the East End, from East Hampton to Mattituck were hopeful that they would finally get some peace and quiet. But last week’s decision found that a one-trip limit on noisy aircraft would have a negative impact on the business of the Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition, a group predominately made up of out-of-state helicopter companies that ferry people in and out of the East End for huge profits.

In her decision, Justice Joanna Seybert said there was no indication in the town’s court filings that a less restrictive measure could not have satisfactorily alleviated the town’s noise problem.

Perhaps Justice Seybert might be able to come up with a solution assemblymen, congressmen, supervisors, mayors, environmentalists and sleep-deprived citizens have been trying to solve for the past 20 years that doesn’t hurt the poor, defenseless New Jersey helicopter companies. Because that’s who needs to be protected here, right?

 

 

Judge’s Airport Decision Expected Friday

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Takeoff and landing activity at the East Hampton Town Airport on May 22nd, 2015

The East Hampton Town Board has postponed enacting airport restrictions until Judge Joanna Seybert makes her decision on a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, which she said she would do this Friday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

 Many residents from Manhattan to Montauk are awaiting the Friday decision of U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert, who said she would rule on a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed by members of the aviation industry against the Town of East Hampton.

The town board has so far held off implementing three historic airport restrictions it adopted in April out of respect for the judicial process, but, both times that the judge has postponed her decision, the town board has released statements saying it “remains confident that it will prevail in the litigation.”

Just days after the town board adopted two curfews and a restriction on the number of permitted operations by noisy aircraft at the East Hampton Airport during the summer, a group of helicopter operators and their allies filed two suits and a request for a temporary restraining order against the town. One of the suits claimed the town didn’t have the authority to enact the three restrictions, while another said that the new rules would cause irreparable injury to the airport, the large helicopter charter companies and local aviators.

On the other hand, hundreds of residents from as far away as the North Fork have for years been complaining about the constant noise from low-flying aircraft in and out of the East Hampton Airport at all times of day and night.  Despite attempts to change routes or the promises of the aviation industry to comply with routes and minimum altitudes, some of these residents say that traffic this year is only getting worse.

Kathleen Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition, said this week: “The weekends have been terrible,” this year. “The other day I must have counted 20 flights overhead in as many minutes,” she said.

Jemille Charlton, the East Hampton Airport manager, said this week that so far this season, “It’s been pretty much status quo.” The levels of route- and altitude compliance he said have been relatively high so far this year, but added that the number of complaints is  “still very high.”

“We’re very eager, desperate I might say, for these restrictions to deliver some relief,” Ms. Cunningham said.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley preemptively introduced a law on Tuesday that would limit the number of landings at the village’s helipad on Meadow Lane, ahead of Judge Seybert’s decision on Friday.

“The reasoning behind that is that we have had a 44-percent increase as compared to 2014,” Mayor Epley said on Wednesday. “If the East Hampton restrictions are held up in court, then we’ll have a substantial increase, more than 44 percent,” he said.

While the number of complaints hasn’t increased astronomically, Mayor Epley is more concerned about the safety at the heliport.

“Our helipad is located at the end of Meadow Lane—it’s a dead-end, two-lane road,” he explained. “It’s unmanned and cell phones don’t work there. He added that the village, like others on the East End, is supported by volunteer medical services and that increased services would create more of a burden on the area.

Mayor Epley opened and closed the public hearing on the new law last night without a vote on the law, and said he is waiting to hear Judge Seybert’s decision before asking the village board to adopt the new rules. If the judge sides with the town, Mr. Epley said it was likely he would call a special meeting to vote on the law ahead of the regularly scheduled July 9 meeting.

The East Hampton Town Board will post any decisions about the airport to the website htoplanning.com .

Federal Court Delays Airport Decision Again

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Takeoff and landing activity at the East Hampton Town Airport on May 22nd, 2015

Helicopters landing at East Hampton Airport over Memorial Day Weekend. Photo by Michael Heller.

The federal court last Wednesday, June 3, issued an order extending the deadline to rule on a temporary restraining order that would block the enforcement of three airport restrictions adopted by East Hampton Town in April, according to a release issued by town.

A group of aviators who oppose the laws filed for a temporary restraining order shortly after the town board adopted three airport restrictions. On May 18, Judge Joanna Seybert requested three weeks to review the case, but last Wednesday, she extended that deadline to Friday, June 26, “citing the complexity of the issues involved,” the release states.

On Tuesday, June 9, Congressman Lee Zeldin successfully added an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations Bill to prohibit the FAA from instituting civil action against the town of East Hampton.

“Congressman Zeldin supports local control,” Supervisor Cantwell said in a release, “and I want to thank him by sending a clear message to the FAA: Stand down.” Supervisor Cantwell called on Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to follow suit and support the amendment in the U.S. Senate.

Bridgehampton CAC Hear Airport Noise Problem

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By Mara Certic                                    

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee discussed the status of some of their pet projects, but also spent some time talking about what has become a regional concern on Long Island,  the East Hampton Airport, at their first meeting of the summer season on Tuesday.

Many gathered in the basement of the Bridgehampton National Bank on Tuesday, for updates on local issues, and a presentation on the history of the planned development district (PDD) by former Southampton Town land-use administrator Jefferson Murphree.

The PDD talk, which followed the timeline of the law so far, starting in 1998, when Mr. Murphree, who was a town planner, Wayne Bruyn, who served as an assistant town attorney, and land-use administrator Bob Duffy wrote the legislation for Southampton Town, took up most of the meeting.

Before Mr. Murphree’s arrival, Bob Malafronte, a member of the Sag Harbor CAC and a former member of the East Hampton Noise Abatement subcommittee, came to update his neighbors to the South and ask for their support.

On Friday, May 22, Mr. Malafronte, who lives on the eastern side of Long Pond, said that he counted 29 helicopters that flew directly over his house in a span of just two hours, “and the route’s not supposed to be anywhere near me,” he said. Over the weekend, Mr. Malafronte said that he had noticed new traffic flying over Bridgehampton, “You guys are now getting a ton,” he told the group.

The assembled Bridgehampton residents were of two minds about whether or not the holiday weekend had created more noise than during previous summers. While some said that the issue wasn’t particularly bad this weekend, other disagreed.

Nancy Walter-Yvertes, co-chair of the committee, said that while her house on Ocean Road had not previously had a lot of loud aircraft overhead, on Monday afternoon when she was playing tennis in her backyard, “it was very, very noisy.”

Jemille Charlton, the airport manager, explained over the phone on Wednesday morning that route changes that the town began to put in place last year reduced the amount of air traffic flying over Wainscott, but did increase traffic over Sagaponack and Bridgehampton. But he stressed that residents should not be seeing any more traffic this year than they did a year ago.

On Tuesday morning, Jeff Smith of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council distributed the organization’s report of chopper compliance over the holiday weekend, which said that only four operations out of the 1,059 that took place Thursday through Tuesday morning did not comply with the prescribed routes.

Mr. Charlton, who uses a different program to track flights, said that Mr. Smith’s numbers were pretty much spot on. “The tower, the FBOs and the pilots worked very well together,” Mr. Charlton said about the holiday weekend. “Things flowed pretty well, it was pretty much an uneventful weekend, which is what I like around here.”

On the subject of noncompliance, Mr. Charlton said that the higher an aircraft is in the sky, the more difficult it can be to tell exactly where its ground location is, exactly what it is above. This means that the higher an aircraft is, the more likely it is to look like it is directly overhead. “That’s something you don’t really think about until you’re involved in this,” he said.

In other action, CAC member Leonard Davenport gave an update on “Wick’s Corner,” the CAC’s new name for the lot at the busy intersection at the east of the hamlet, where a CVS pharmacy is slated to go.  The group decided to move forward in its efforts to find out more about the possibility of the town purchasing the parking rights from the owner of the lot. “My supposition would be that it would save [the owner] money,” he said over the phone on Wednesday morning, “and reduce his assessment.” The purchase would also help the hamlet contend with an existing parking problem CAC members fear a new CVS would exacerbate.

The eventual goal is that a combination of money from parking and park districts, the Community Preservation Fund, and private donations could purchase the lot from the owner, and turn it into a green space.

The CAC will be asking the town to look into the cost to the taxpayer, and will also ask that the property be placed onto the town’s CPF list.

“We need to be proactive in getting a willing seller and convincing the town to take part,” Mr. Davenport said.

 

 

 

East Hampton Airport Restrictions Postponed for Three Weeks

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By Mara Certic

Three airport regulations, which were meant to go into effect on Tuesday, will not be implemented for at least three more weeks following the request of a federal  judge, the East Hampton Town Board said on Monday.

The board agreed on Monday morning to wait the three weeks that U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert asked for to consider a temporary restraining order  that a group of helicopter operators and their allies filed just days after the town adopted three laws which were designed to mitigate some of the noise buzzing around the East Hampton Airport.

The town has adopted two curfews and a restriction on the number of operations “noisy” aircraft can make per week, as well as a hefty fee and fine schedule which would see first offenders fined $1,000, second-time transgressors paying $4,000 and those caught for a fourth time being banned from the airport for two years.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition, a group made up predominately of out-of-state aviation businesses, filed two complaints just days after the town board adopted what many have said is the first real effort to deal with a 20-year-old noise problem. The coalition sought a restraining order t block the restrictions while the case is considered.

On Friday, May 8, the town’s attorneys, Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell LLP, submitted a 36-page argument in opposition to the temporary restraining order, along with six separate declarations from Supervisor Larry Cantwell, engineers and lawyers contracted by the town, and local residents.

One of the pillars of the airport supporters’ complaints is that the three regulations will cause irreparable injury to their businesses. The town’s attorneys have argued that the regulations will only affect them financially, and should not be considered irreparable injury: “The injuries plaintiffs claim are purely financial and can be mitigated by changing their way of doing business or through damages. On the other hand, the local laws serve to protect the truly irreplaceable qualities of peace and quiet in the East End—qualities which are the mainstay of the local economy,” the court papers read.

At the request of Judge Joanna Seybert, at a hearing on the restraining order on Monday morning in Central Islip, the town agreed to defer implementing the laws for three weeks to give the court time to rule on a preliminary injunction. Supervisor Cantwell agreed to the delay. A press release from the town board said he felt “it was necessary to respect the judicial process.”

According to the release, Assistant United States Attorney Robert Schumacher appeared on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration and indicated that the FAA also wanted more time to review the suit.  The judge will consider issuing a preliminary injunction on Monday, June 8. The town board will post any updates to the ruling onto htoplanning.com.

Fixing a Hole

At a work session on Tuesday morning, representatives from the town’s engineering firm, Michael Baker International, presented the town board with a list of several important safety improvements needed at the airport, many of which they said could take months to complete

The recommendations include repaving, removal of trees and other obstructions from the flight path, installing a deer fence and an FAA-approved weather system and even some longer-term plans, like the creation of a new fuel farm.

The East Hampton Town Board has been under pressure from airport users to better address these issues of concern. Last month, local pilot Jonathan Sabin penned a petition on moveon.org entitled “Keep the East Hampton Airport Open,” which asked the board to make some much needed improvements to the airport to “prove to us that you are not trying to close the airport.” As of Wednesday, the petition, which describes the town’s approach as “draconian” had 956 signatures.

Mike Waibel, the assistant vice president of Michael Baker International, explained that town has already begun to implement several of the safety improvements, including the weather system, which should be up and running at some point this summer.

“I think the board is anxious to move forward as quickly as we can,” Supervisor Cantwell said to Mr. Waibel. “My message to you guys is: Let’s get going,” he said.

 

 

 

East Hampton Town Responds to Temporary Restraining Order; Regulations Scheduled to Begin Tuesday

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By Mara Certic

 A hearing in Central Islip on Monday morning will determine whether or not restrictions aimed at curbing a regional noise problem emanating from East Hampton Airport go into effect this Tuesday, May 19.

In the meantime, the board on Thursday, May 7, held a hearing and adopted strict fines on those who break proposed airport curfews or violate a restriction limiting the number of operations to two per week for noisy aircraft. The board also agreed to evaluate its airport restrictions after the busy summer season passes.

The proposed fines would be $1,000 for a first violation, $4,000 for a second, $10,000 for a third, and a fourth could see the aviator banned from the airport for two years.

Kathryn Slye, a local pilot, told the board that its fines would not end up affecting large companies, but would instead only harm local aviators such as herself, as an unexpected weather event could theoretically cause delays, forcing an arrival time after the 11 p.m. curfew, incurring a fine. “You’re grounding us,” she said.

“Your first fine will ground us for six months, the second one will ground us for over a year,” she added. Ms. Slye asked the board consider putting in a provision to consider a waiver for locally based pilots who might arrive a few minutes past curfew.

The board had originally intended to implement new airport restrictions it adopted last month on Sunday, May 17, but decided to wait for a judge to rule on a request for a temporary restraining order that was filed by a coalition of pilots and members of the aviation industry.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition, a group made up of several out-of-state helicopter companies, the ground and fuel service provider at the airport, and local pilots, sought to block the legislation in federal court soon after the board adopted it in April. The coalition filed two suits, one which claims the town does not have the power to impose restrictions over the airport, and another which maintains the restrictions are arbitrary and discriminatory.

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, who for years have advocated for restrictions at the airport, were concerned last week when they got word that the Federal Aviation Administration would support the bid for a temporary restraining order. The town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, did not share their concerns, stating that in order to get a TRO, the plaintiffs would have to show that the restrictions would cause them irreparable injury.

The hearing on the TRO was scheduled to take place Thursday, May 14, but was postponed until Monday, May 18, because of a change of judge who will be presiding over the case, according to a release issued by Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez on Tuesday afternoon.

“The TRO hearing is limited to the opponents’ arguments that they will be irreparably harmed in the short term while the case is in the courts,” the statement reads.

“The Town Board is confident that it will prevail in the litigation. The town has agreed to postpone enforcement of the local laws until after the hearing,” it continues.

On Friday, May 8, the town’s attorneys, Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell LLP, submitted a 36-page argument in opposition to the temporary restraining order, along with six separate declarations from Supervisor Larry Cantwell, engineers and lawyers contracted by the town, and local residents.

“The injuries plaintiffs claim are purely financial and can be mitigated by changing their way of doing business or through damages. On the other hand, the local laws serve to protect the truly irreplaceable qualities of peace and quiet in the East End—qualities which are the mainstay of the local economy,” the court papers read.

The document explains why the town has the power to enact restrictions, and says that while the restrictions may affect the business of helicopter operators at one airport, they will not “impair their ability to operate in the other markets and airports they serve, including airports very close to East Hampton.”

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. on Monday at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip.

At last week’s meeting, supporters of the restrictions asked the board to do more, reconsider the ban on helicopters and hold fast.

Lifelong East Hampton resident Walker Bragman referenced the website of the Friends of the East Hampton Airport which on its homepage says, “Help us save the number-one community for second homes and resorts, by keeping our vital airport open and operating.”

“I have news for you,” Mr. Bragman said, addressing the Friends of the East Hampton Airport.  “Second homes should not get priority over only homes.”

“Keep your big government, big Washington hands off my town,” he added to much applause, asking the board to increase the fines and adopt a weekend ban on helicopters that was proposed but later dropped.

Some supporters of the legislation said the town should seek a new attorney because of supposedly contradictory things Mr. Kirsch said when he was advising  the previous town administration.

“When your administration took office, he seemed to have flip-flopped,” said East Hampton resident Susan McGraw-Keber, requesting the town seek new counsel. Hers and other comments of concern caused Councilwoman Sylvia Overby to abstain from voting to re-enlist the help of Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell, LLP, capping legal fees at $425,000. The other four members voted in favor of the resolution.

 

East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Restrictions, Aviation Industry Files Suit

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By Mara Certic

As it promised to do, the East Hampton Town Board on Thursday, April 16, adopted three laws restricting traffic at the East Hampton Airport, in what many consider to be the first real attempt in 20 years to muffle the noise from aircraft landing and taking off.

Just five days later, on Tuesday, April 21, the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, a coalition of airport supporters, announced it had filed a federal lawsuit against the town, seeking to overturn the new restrictions.

The vote to impose curfews and place a restriction on touch-and-go operations was met by a standing ovation from some members of the audience who have spent the past several years fighting for a quieter airport.

The board voted unanimously to adopt both curfews; one makes mandatory a currently voluntary curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft. The other imposes a curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for “noisy” aircraft, which are defined as aircraft with published Effective Perceived Noise in Decibel (EPNdB) ratings of 91 or higher. Councilman Fred Overton expressed some concern over the third restriction, which will limit the noisy aircraft from taking off and landing at the airport more than once per week during the summer.

“I appreciate that my colleagues are trying very hard to achieve a balance between restrictions at the airport, operations and the needs of the community,” he said on Thursday night.

“After reviewing the data, I do not believe that the balancing requires the two-operations-per-week restriction. This restriction will seriously inconvenience airport users, and I’m not yet convinced it will produce as many benefits as my colleagues believe. I would prefer to conduct the balancing in a manner that slightly favors the users of the airport ,” he said before casting the sole vote against the legislation. He added that he felt the town should be implementing the rules incrementally, in order to make sure they address the actual problem at hand.

“Let’s impose the fewest restrictions possible and if it proves necessary, we can impose additional restrictions next year. I think that that approach is politically more realistic,” he said, adding that he is still concerned about the possible diversion of aircraft to other airports.

Supporters, opponents and skeptics addressed the board during the public portion prior to the vote. Members of the aviation committee, who have claimed the restrictions could damage the local economy, infuriate pilots and result in the eventual closure of the airport, took the opportunity once again to try to dissuade the board from going ahead with the new rules.

“It sounds like we’re about to rule on something that hasn’t been fully planned out,” said local pilot Bruno Schreck. Reggie Cornelia, vice-president of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, said that the plans were being “rushed through,” and that voting on Thursday night would be “hurrying up unnecessarily.”

But advocates for quieter skies said that the town has been anything but hasty in its decision-making. David Gruber, who sat on both the airport noise subcommittee and the budget and finance committee, said that the two groups have met tirelessly, advising the town board with 13 sets of findings and no fewer than four professional studies.

Jeremy Samuelson, the executive director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, requested the town board confirm its plans to monitor the restrictions throughout the summer, so that “if there are unintended consequences, you have the ability to pull back the reins.”

“This is not a perfect solution,” Mr. Samuelson said. “First attempts to deal with problems of that magnitude rarely get the whole thing right, right out of the gate.” He added that the three restrictions represented a “reasonable, well-measured proposal.”

The town board and Airport Manager Jemille Charlton will now try to develop the monitoring process for the summer, as well as penalties, provisions and the details of enforcement.

Three cameras are slated to be added at the airport, and Mr. Charlton is planning to get more still. “I’m currently in the process of building a public portal,” he added, which will enable residents to track disturbances.

In terms of specifics as to how he plans on enforcing the three restrictions, Mr. Charlton said, “we’re working on that now,” adding that the new cameras will enable him to track aircraft from the moment they take off, without having to use radar.

A public hearing on enforcement and penalties is scheduled for the board’s meeting on Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, released a statement almost immediately after the vote, which stated that aviation supporters “are now forced to consider legal action to remedy this unfortunate situation.”

Five days later, on Tuesday, April 21, the coalition filed suit against the town,  claiming that the three regulations adopted last week “violate and conflict with federal law and policy.”

The lawsuit was filed in the federal court’s Eastern District of New York, and seeks and injunction “to enjoin the town from unlawfully restricting access to East Hampton Airport in violation with federal law.”

In the lawsuit, the group claims the restrictions are discriminatory and will cause irreparable harm, and that the board didn’t have the authority to enact any of the new laws.

“The town has knowingly and purposefully transgressed the bounds of its extremely limited authority,” the suit claims.

Of the eight parties listed as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, five of them are out-of-state corporations or LLCS located in New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and Virginia. One of the plaintiffs is Liberty Helicopters, Inc., a New York corporation located in Kearny, New Jersey. The crowd-sourcing company “Blade,” which provides $500 helicopter tickets for the 45-minute trip from Manhattan to East Hampton, uses Liberty Helicopters as its primary operator. The other two plaintiffs are Sound Aircraft Services, which provides ground and fueling services at the East Hampton Airport, and the non-profit Friends of the East Hampton Airport, Inc.

The town released a statement on Tuesday afternoon calling the lawsuit “entirely predictable,” and bringing up specific facts it “conveniently” forgot to mention in the 34-page complaint.

“The town is fully prepared for this litigation and will vigorously defend its legal and constitutional right to impose reasonable, non-arbitrary, and carefully balanced restrictions,” the statement reads.

“While we anticipated this lawsuit, it is sad that these airport users are now going to force the town to spend scarce airport funds to defend these restrictions rather than working to make this airport the best it can be.”

East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Restrictions

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David Gruber addressed the town board before they adopted three restrictions to mitigate noise from the East Hampton Airport. 

By Mara Certic

The East Hampton Town Board on Thursday night voted to adopt restrictions on traffic in and out of the East Hampton Airport, what many consider to be the first real attempt to muffle the noise in twenty years.

The vote to impose curfews and a restriction on touch-and-go operations was met by a standing ovation from some members of the audience who have spent the past few years fighting for a quieter airport.

The board voted unanimously to adopt both curfews; one mandates the current voluntary curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft and the other imposes a curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for “noisy” aircraft, these are aircraft with published Effective Perceived Noise in Decibel (EPNdB) ratings of 91 or higher. Councilman Fred Overton expressed some concern over the third restriction, which will limit the prohibit noisy aircraft from taking off and landing at the airport more than once per week during the summer.

“After reviewing the data, I do not believe [the issue] requires the restriction on two operations per week,” he said before placing the “nay” vote of the evening. He added that he felt the town should be implementing the rules incrementally, in order to make sure they address the actual problem at hand.

Supporters, opponents and skeptics addressed the board during the public portion prior to the vote. Members of the aviation committee, who have claimed the restrictions could damage the local economy, infuriate pilots and result in the eventual closure of the airport, took the opportunity once again to try to dissuade the board from going ahead with the new rules.

“It sounds like we’re about to rule on something that hasn’t been fully planned out,” said local pilot Bruno Schreck. Reggie Cornelia, vice-president of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee said that the plans were being “rushed through,” and that voting on Thursday night would be “hurtling up unnecessarily.”

But advocates for quieter skies said that the town has been anything but hasty in its decision-making. David Gruber, who sat on both the airport noise subcommittee and the budget and finance committee said that his two groups have met tirelessly, advising the boards with 13 sets of findings and no fewer than four professional studies, he said.

East Hampton resident Walker Bragman spoke to some of the claims of aviators that the inability to travel to the East End by helicopter on the weekend will deter people from coming here and in some cases, will force them to sell their homes.

“No it won’t. It absolutely won’t, this is the Hamptons,” he said. “And I think the weekend helicopter ban is a great idea, it should be strongly considered in the future.”

Jeremy Samuelson, of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, requested the town board confirm their plans to monitor the restrictions throughout the summer, so that “If there are unintended consequences, you have the ability to pull back the reins.”

“This is not a perfect solution,” Mr. Samuelson said. “First attempts to deal with problems of that magnitude rarely get the whole thing right, right out of the gate,” he said, adding that the three restrictions represented a “reasonable, well-measured proposal.”

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, released this statement almost immediately after the vote:

“While not surprising, the decision by the Town of East Hampton to implement these severe and illegal restrictions is certainly disappointing.”

“Rather than working together to find a balanced, reasonable approach, as they promised, the Town has passed restrictions that violate the law and result in dramatic loss in revenue for the airport and Town. We are now forced to consider legal action to remedy this unfortunate situation.

Tensions Soar at East Hampton Airport Hearing as Critics and Supporters Air Their Views

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Andy Sabin warned the board that adopting the four proposed regulations would hurt the local economy. Photography by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

Since proposed flight restrictions at East Hampton Airport were unveiled last month, many members of the local aviation community have argued the laws will surely result in increased taxes and the eventual closure of the airport.

According to some, the four restrictions the town board is considering would not only have repercussions on local aviators, but will also have a devastating domino effect on the local economy and would result in large swathes of summer visitors and second homeowners picking up shop and relocating to towns and villages that are friendlier to air traffic.

“We are a resort community dependent on seasonal traffic, and that can’t be ignored. Facilitating access to the Hamptons is what feeds our economy,” said local pilot and hangar-owner Rod Davidson at a hearing on the proposals on Thursday, March12.

“The proposed restrictions on aircraft traffic are a death sentence not only to the airport but to hundreds of jobs and countless businesses. I find it baffling that the town board continues to place the agenda of a handful of people above preserving one of its most important economic assets,” he said.

Several of those who attended the hearing to speak out in opposition of the proposed regulations were employed by Sound Aircraft Services, the 25-year-old business that provides fueling and ground services at the airport. Maureen Quigley, a 22-year-employee of Sound Aircraft, was adamant that the airport would not be able to survive a trial run of what she described were “egregious” restrictions.

“To some extent, any change in the airport affects the working people more than any other group in the town,” said Mitchell Moss from the New York University  Center for Transportation, because the working people work for many airport-users, he said.

Ms. Quigley added that the restrictions are in effect condemning her clients “for being rich and privileged.”

While those who complain about noise have for years asked the town board to consider their needs over the wealthy 1 percent who frequently use the airport, airport supporters tried to turn the tables when they said that the number of people who are actually affected by noise is actually just a small, but vocal, minority, compared to the number of people who benefit from the airport.

Local pilot Bruno Schreck had several large visual aids made for the hearing, and when his presentation was cut short because of a 3-minute limit on comments, he returned before the town board at its work session on Tuesday, March 17, to finish his presentation.

Mr. Schreck believes that the public has been misled by the presentation of complaint data in previous noise analyses prepared for the town. Mr. Schreck maintained that the town’s use of a logarithmic scale distorted the facts, and made it look as though more households had complained, when in fact, 10 houses represent one half of all complaints.

Mr. Schreck prepared one graph, which was intended to visually show the reward and risks of the airport. Mr. Schreck concluded that the rewards outweighs the risks, with the airport enabling 8,666 people to enjoy summertime on the East End and only ruining the summers of 200 local residents who are “frequent complainers.” Mr. Schreck’s figures are based on the assumption that there were approximately four passengers served in each of the 26,000 operations at the East Hampton Airport last year; he then divided 104,000 by 12, assuming that each of the passengers came to the East End for all 12 of the summer weekends.

Mr. Schreck also warned that if the airport is in fact shut down, planes will continue to travel overhead and disrupt residents as city-dwellers will still jet over the East End to second homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, but will no longer contribute money to the local economy.

Amagansett resident Andrew Sabin said he moved to the area 24 years ago, and the airport was one of the big draws. Airport users pay a huge chunk of local taxes, Mr. Sabin said, and he, like many aviators, warned the town that these restrictions would likely result in lengthy litigation. The town has already earmarked $3 million for airport-related litigation.

“Wouldn’t this money be better spent helping charities in this town?” he asked. Mr. Sabin’s son Jonathan also warned the town board that restrictions would only succeed in enraging helicopter users and said that if the airport users got together and agreed not to pay their property taxes “the town would be broke over night.”

“I know quite a few of the helicopter users at the airport. I can tell you right now that each and every one of them could afford a yacht, with a helipad, and would gladly park their yacht right out on the water here and land right on the yachts,” he said. “It’s dangerous to enrage that demographic.”

And on the other side of the aisle…

For East End residents craving quieter skies, four proposed flight restrictions at East Hampton Airport are like the light at the end of 20-year-old tunnel.

Heller_EH Town Board Airport Hearing @ LTV 3-12-15_7185_LR

North Haven Village Trustee Dianne Skilbred asked the town to put in place all four of the regulations.

Now that restrictions are finally in sight, supporters spent their allotted individual 3 minutes of public comment at a hearing on the proposals at LTV Studios in Wainscott on Thursday, March 12, thanking the town board for its hard work and transparency and asking it to “hold fast” with the proposed legislation.

In addition to environmentalists and residents, elected officials from four East End towns and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski commended the members of the board for the courage they have shown in what has been described in acting for the greater good in what has become a regional issue.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming urged the town to continue with its airport diversion study, which seeks to find out where flights barred from East Hampton would ultimately end up. As the town’s liaison for both Noyac and Sag Harbor, she assured the town board “that there are many, many people in the community whose quality life is impacted” by aircraft noise.

“We thank you for your courage,” wrote Vincent Cavello in a letter to the town board read by Kathleen Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “It is a sad truth that East Hampton is becoming a poster child for inequality in this country.”

While the Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition, a group made up of several New Jersey-based aviation businesses, and other entities have filed suit against the town, Mr. Cavello’s letter said the board “responded to these and other lawsuits without breaking stride, knowing that the law is on the side of those who own the airport—the citizens of East Hampton—not those who exploit the airport and the town for their own economic gain.”

David Gruber, who has been an airport opponent for decades, said that the rumors that the proposed laws would make the airport financially unviable were “theatrical nonsense.” He also referred to a group of pilots filing suits against the town who call themselves the friends of the East Hampton Airport as “the self-serving operators from far away.”

Mr. Gruber serves on the town’s airport budget and finance advisory committee), which has been so far unable to come to a consensus about the economic impacts on the airport if the proposed rules are implemented. Members of the aviation community have said this inability to reach a consensus shows that the proposed restrictions are discriminatory and extreme. Those who complain about the noise had a different take.

“The airport can easily support itself without any need of FAA grants or taxpayer subsidies. Its income of more than $1 million a year is more than enough for all of its capital budget and other needs,” Mr. Gruber said.

He conceded the town would have to find ways to replace landing and fuel revenue if the town adopted the restrictions.

“A 50-percent landing fee increase would almost surely suffice. It sounds like a lot only because landing fees have been kept artificially low for years by FAA subsidies. The landing fee for a small aircraft would increase to $16.50—less than parking at Main Beach,” he said.

“The additional $330 for a $36 million Gulf Stream 5 that costs $7,500 an hour to operate would also be the cost of three minutes of flight time. This relationship that the fee increase equals about three minutes of flight time holds true across the board. It is a trivial amount,” he added.

Tensions rose on Thursday night when Wainscott resident Irving Paler began naming those who have logged the most complaints against the East Hampton Airport, asking them “Where do you find the time?”

Not only did those supporting the regulations begin applauding the top-complainers, but East Hampton resident Paul Keeber took it upon himself to respond to Mr. Paler’s question.

“I’m sitting with my beautiful wife, at our beautiful home on the back deck. Suddenly the overwhelming noise from a helicopter’s blade forces me to stop speaking to my wife. At that moment we pick up the phone right next to us and call the complaint line. Eight minutes later, a helicopter blade overhead forces me to stop speaking to my wife and I pick up the phone and I call the complaint line. And then 14 minutes later a helicopter blade overhead forces me to stop speaking to my wife so we call the complaint line,” he explained.

Many supporters of the legislation likened the regulations to any other laws that aim to conserve and preserve. “These resolutions embody a time-honored tradition of policy for the greater good, to help industry bring its standards up to community values,” Ms. Cunningham said on Thursday. “We are not asking people not to come here, we’re asking them to come quietly,” she added.

In response to claims that many people come to East Hampton simply because they can fly here in helicopters in less than an hour, Sag Harbor’s Patricia Currie responded “such people are mythical beasts, they’re unicorns, they don’t exist.”

Ms. Currie reminded the room that visitors have been making the long trip to the East End since the horse and buggy.

“If there are people who won’t live here without helicopters, they will be replaced by others who will,” Ms. Currie added.

“We need helicopters like Shelter Island needs a bridge and Montauk needs high speed ferry service to Connecticut casinos. Please pass the restrictions,” she said. “We will survive.”

Tensions Soar Over Proposed Airport Restrictions In East Hampton

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helicopters

By Mara Certic

Tensions soared on Thursday evening, as two sides battled it out during a public hearing on four proposed laws designed to curb the noise problem at East Hampton Airport.

Members of the aviation industry, local pilots and some business owners sparred with environmentalists and residents from four different East End towns at a hearing on proposed restrictions which would theoretically limit operations at East Hampton Airport by approximately one third while addressing almost two thirds of the noise problem.

Over 70 people addressed the East Hampton Town Board during a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting on Thursday, March 12 at LTV Studios, however unlike previous meetings where the speakers were predominately those spear-heading the noise abatement movement, those involved in aviation were also out in full force.

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and other like-minded individuals, lined up to thank the board for their hard work and to lend support to their four proposed restrictions which in their minds have not gone far enough to tackle the problem of noise on the East End.

David Gruber, who has been an open opponent to the airport for some time, said that the rumors that the proposed laws would make the airport financially unviable were “theatrical nonsense.” He also said referred to a group of aviators filing suits against the town who call themselves the friends of the East Hampton Airport “the self-serving operators from far away.”

One self-proclaimed friend of the airport took it upon himself to name the names of the top complainers of noise at East Hampton Airport, in an effort to show that the problem is not as widespread as community members would have the board think. This then spurred applause from members of the noise-affected community, who believe that the number of complainants is way lower than those who claim to be plagued and tortured by the noise.

Other members of the aviation community were adamant that the proposed restrictions would be detrimental to the region at large, and would result in a huge hit to the East End economy, as they claim the airport draws in visitors who otherwise would not be spending their time or money on the East End.

Montauk and Southampton residents expressed some concern that the proposed laws would have an unforeseen negative impact on neighboring hamlets if flights and helicopter operations were to move to nearby airports.

The public comment period will remain open in East Hampton Town until the end of business of Friday, March 20.