Tag Archive | "east hampton airport"

Battle Lines Are Drawn as Public Hearing Looms on East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Meeting with local officials from the North and South Forks, newly elected U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin held a press conference on Sunday at Southold Town Hall stressing the need for finding a solution to the helicopter noise issue on the East End.

“The persistent issue of helicopter noise on the East End, summer after summer, has become an increasing impediment on the quality of life of many of my constituents,” said Mr. Zeldin, the vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, in a release. “That’s why I am calling on the FAA to find an immediate solution for this problem, especially since it continues to get worse.”

The East Hampton Town Board is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, March 12, on proposed restrictions aimed at reducing East Hampton Airport noise complaints. The hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but was canceled due to a severe snow storm.

The hearing will take place at 4:30 p.m. at LTV Studios on Industrial Road in Wainscott, just south of the airport, as originally planned last week.

The town will listen to comment on four separate proposals. One would ban helicopters from landing or taking off at the airport during summer weekends. Another would impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft  and a third would impose an even stricter curfew for “noisy” aircraft. A fourth law is aimed at limiting the number of touch-and-go operations, in which pilots practice landings and takeoffs, allowed by louder aircraft at the airport during the summer season.

Noise complaints, which once came from residents living on either side of the airport in East Hampton and Southampton towns, have expanded to include North Haven, Shelter Island, and Southold Town.

“Helicopter noise continues to be a substantial problem on the East End. It has, and will continue to negatively affect the quality of life for year-round residents and adversely impact our regional economy dependent on tourism and the second home industry,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “East End elected officials, representing all levels of government, must renew efforts to work together to facilitate an end point which is favorable to all of our constituents and the Town of East Hampton.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell thanked Mr. Zeldin, who was elected in November, for his support for “local control of the East Hampton Airport, the epicenter of the aircraft noise issue, in the ongoing effort to mitigate this noise, which affects so many residents across the East End.”

“Those who enjoy the benefits of the helicopter flights should endure the noise and pollution,” added Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty. “It’s as simple as that.”

“We are delighted and extremely grateful to the congressman for making aircraft noise abatement his first official act as our federally elected representative,” said Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “The East Hampton Town Board has worked in a transparent and comprehensive way to propose policy that will protect the public from the adverse health, environmental and economic impacts of aircraft noise, while supporting a safely maintained, recreational airport.  In league with our Congressman’s efforts on the federal level, the noise affected can finally feel confident that their concerns are being effectively addressed.”

As the town board prepares to take action on the airport, the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

Last week, on the eve of the originally scheduled hearing, the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee informed the town board that it would not be able to deliver a promised report on the potential impact the four laws would have on the airport’s bottom line.

Shortly after that announcement, Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Friends of the East Hampton Airport, sent out a release calling the committee’s failure to produce the report a “major blow” to the town’s proposed legislation.

“The finance committee’s refusal to sign off on this deeply misguided proposal confirms the true economic hazards of the plan and the town board’s blatant disregard for these risks,” he stated.

Later in the week, fliers from the Friends of the East Hampton Airport were distributed around town, urging residents to oppose restrictions to the airport, stating the town board was poised to “vote to virtually shut down our airport this summer, which will be a punch in the gut to the local economy.”

The flier says the restrictions will result in lost jobs, local businesses closing, millions of dollars in lost economic activity, higher property taxes and lower property values. It urges residents to call at least 10 friends or family members and ask them to come out in support of the airport.

The budget committee is made up of both aviation interests as well as a group drawn from airport opponents. Representatives from the latter group cried foul, saying the pro-airport members of the group had intentionally refused to sign off on its findings. Since the committee operated on a consensus basis in which all members had to agree to its findings, the actions of the aviation interests effectively sabotaged the report, they said.

“The report of the committee is not merely delayed or untimely. It will never be issued, because members of the committee with aviation interests will not permit a report that shows any circumstances under which the airport will be self-sustaining,” said David Gruber, a committee member and longtime airport critic.

East Hampton Airport Budget Committee Grounded By Disagreement

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By Mara Certic

Just three days before proposed restrictions on flights at East Hampton Airport were scheduled to be the subject of a hearing, the town board’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee announced it would be unable to provide the town with a report on the potential economic impact of the four proposed laws.

Members of BFAC had told the town board they would have the final report complete in time for this Thursday’s public hearing at LTV Studios in Wainscott, but  its members have reached a stalemate over just what the restrictions would mean.

“The committee has been unable to reach a consensus on a five-year earnings and cash flow forecast if the proposed rules are implemented,” BFAC Chairman Arthur Malman wrote in a memo to the town board dated Monday, March 2.

The committee had been charged with determining if the airport could remain financially self-sufficient over the long haul if the four proposed laws, which would impose a night-time curfew, ban helicopters on busy summer weekends and take other steps to reduce noise complaints, were adopted. The committee is also trying to take into account what will happen if the town finances $7 million of capital improvements over the next five year. It is also factoring in an estimated  $3 million in litigation costs over the next three years.

“A significant number of members of the committee do not support forecasting the financial impact of the proposed rules and attendant rules litigation, because they believe that the variables, especially after the 2015 summer season, are too great and/or further data, research and perspectives from industry experts as well as experimentation with all or some of the proposed rules, is needed,” Mr. Malman wrote.

On the other side of the coin, other members of the committee feel confident that the committee could in fact reasonably make a fiscal forecast for the next five years, and that the airport would be financially sustainable.

Soon after Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez announced during Tuesday’s East Hampton Town Board work session that the committee would not be able to complete its report, Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Friends of the East Hampton Airport, sent out a release stating it was a “major blow” to the town’s proposed legislation.

“The finance committee’s refusal to sign off on this deeply misguided proposal confirms the true economic hazards of the plan and the town board’s blatant disregard for these risks. The airport’s future and the town’s financial health is on the line and when you can’t get your own budget committee to sign off on a plan, shouldn’t it give pause and force everyone to reassess?” he stated.

“We call on the board to postpone any vote on these restrictions so the people of East Hampton can get a full and fair analysis of what these restrictions mean for our community, property taxes, local businesses and economy,” Mr. Riegelhaupt continued.

Pat Trunzo, a member of the noise subcommittee and the BFAC, doesn’t think the failure to reach a consensus “means all that much.”

“My take, as just one member of the committee, is that the split is due to the fact that the aviators don’t like these proposed rules and don’t want to agree to any of them,” Mr. Trunzo said.

“The report of the committee is not merely delayed or untimely. It will never be issued, because members of the committee with aviation interests will not permit a report that shows any circumstances under which the airport will be self-sustaining,” said David Gruber, another committee member, in an email to members of the press.

The BFAC, which is made up of members  who are opposed to airport noise as well as aviation enthusiasts, had previously unanimously advised the board that the airport could sustain itself financially even with the complete elimination of helicopter operations.

“Up until these proposed rules came into the picture there was no disaccord” within the committee, Mr. Trunzo said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

The four proposed laws would ban helicopters from landing or taking off at the airport during summer weekends; would impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft and a stricter curfew for “noisy” aircraft and a fourth law is aimed at limiting the number of touch-and-go operations allowed by louder aircraft at the airport during the summer season.

“From where I stand, the math clearly shows the airport can be self-sustaining and support the $7 million in capital improvements and the $3 million in litigation over the next five and three years respectively,” Mr. Trunzo added.

In response to the financial committee’s gridlock, the Airport Planning Committee’s noise sub-committee submitted its 13 findings and recommendations to the town board.

The noise subcommittee explained in its report how the airport can remain financially sustainable, and suggested a one-time landing fee increase, which would cover the cost of revenue lost by the proposed laws.

The noise subcommittee suggested that a proposed paid parking lot and leasing vacant lots could bring in $1.5 million in revenue, and that the new regulations might render the air traffic control tower unneeded, which means the money budgeted to maintain it could go to recovering lost revenue and would result in a landing fee increase of just 10 percent; a landing fee increase of 50 percent would be roughly equivalent to the cost of an additional three minutes of flight.

The BFAC will meet on Thursday, March 19, in the East Hampton Town Hall meeting room.

Airport Manager Jemille Charlton presented the town board with an overview of 2014 operations at the work session on Tuesday morning. All identifiable flight operations increased from this year to last, with the total number of flights up by 4,724, from 20,922 to 25,646.

Mr. Charlton also said that the airport received $1.68 million in landing fees last year, and received revenue of $3.18 million in fuel sales.

Also during Tuesday’s work session, Marguerite Wolffsohn, the town’s planning director, presented a draft of the preliminary airport traffic diversion study, which will be used in an environmental impact study of the proposed laws.

The study is being prepared by airport analyst Peter Stumpp, and is looking at the impact the proposed legislation would have on the Montauk Airport, Gabreski Airport and the Southampton Heliport.

The public hearing on the four laws is scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the LTV Studios on Industrial Road, just south of the airport.

 

 

Residents Concerned About What East Hampton Airport Regulations Could Mean for Montauk

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A grassroots organization in Montauk asked the town board to consider what regulations at East Hampton airport could mean for the island’s eastern most airport. Photo by Cara Rooney. 

By Mara Certic

As the East Hampton Town Board scheduled public hearings this week for controversial new airport regulations, which would effectively ban helicopters from East Hampton Airport on summer weekends as well as impose a strict nighttime curfew, another group aired concerns about the negative effects the laws could have on neighboring airports.

The town board on February 4 unveiled draft legislation, which it said would reduce airport traffic by a third, and is designed to tackle a large portion of the noise problem on the East End.

East Hampton officials maintain that they effectively gained proprietary control over the airport at the beginning of the year when the town’s commitments under Federal Aviation Administration grants expired, and the town opted out of future funding from the federal agency.

But Jeremy Samuelson, executive director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said the new restrictions on East Hampton Airport could have unintended consequences for the small Montauk Airport. He read a letter to the board on Tuesday, February 10, asking it to weigh those consequences.

“CCOM believes strongly that the town board has a responsibility to understand and describe possible impacts to Montauk stemming from the proposed legislation,” he said.  “Demonstrate whether alternatives to the proposed legislation could achieve similar results for East Hampton while minimizing or eliminating impacts for Montauk and identify specific measures that could minimize impacts to Montauk.”

There is concern that the new restrictions at the East Hampton Airport, could result in a spike in helicopter traffic over Montauk’s privately owned 40-acre airport.

“The aviation consultants working for East Hampton Town should be tasked with determining where traffic currently landing at East Hampton Airport is most likely to land in the event restrictions are adopted, including projections for Montauk Airport, Gabreski Airport and the Southampton Dune Road heliport,” Mr. Samuelson’s letter stated.

He added that the town should begin working with the FAA, Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin to put in place a mandatory over-water approach for helicopters landing at Montauk Airport.

One change has already been made to the legislation, which was first proposed last week. That alteration is in the definition of the types of “noisy” aircraft that would be subjected to an extended curfew from 8 p.m. through to 9 a.m. These noisy aircraft would now just be those with published approach levels above 91 decibels for the purposes of the law.

The town will soon publish and make available lists of which aircraft fall into the noisy category. The amendment to the law means that the restrictions would now only affect 24 percent of all operations and would still address 67 percent of the complaints (without the change, it was estimated 31 percent of flights would be affected, dealing with 74 percent of the noise problem.)

Public hearings will take place for each of the four proposed airport regulations at a special early meeting at LTV Studios on Thursday, March 5, at 4:30 p.m. in order to provide substantial time for the ample public comment expected.

Targeting Share Houses

Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski presented the town board with the latest suggestions on how to tackle the problem of share houses and illegal rentals, which each year seems to become more prevalent on the East End.

When residents recoiled last year at the suggestion of a rental registration law, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town would look to strengthen its existing code in an effort to target the issue of illegally occupied housing.

“The over-arching and the number-one issue that should be addressed from an enforcement point of view is over-occupancy on a year-round basis,” Mr. Sendlenski said on Tuesday.

He recommended the whole section of the code be revised to create a better system. One idea is that certain things could be considered presumptive evidence of overcrowding, so code enforcement officers would not have to physically witness a large number of people staying in one room. For instance, three beds in one bedroom could be used to prove an unsafe situation, he said, rather than having to catch up with the individuals supposedly using them, which can be difficult in the transient environment of a share house.

“We would still be showing overcrowding by square footage, but this would provide us with not having to witness the individuals within that space,” he said.

Mr. Sendlenski also suggested increasing the maximum fine from $1,000 to $2,500 for the first offense. He recommended the fine be doubled for second offenders, and doubled again for third offenders.

East Hampton Town Board Considers Curfews, Limits, Bans to Control Airport Noise

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Frank Dalene, co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition, thanked the town board for their openness and transparency during the process of adopting airport regulations. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

People who have been complaining about noise from East Hampton Airport seemed elated on Wednesday morning when the East Hampton Town Board suggested a year-round curfew for the airport as well as other steps to limit noisy operations, including banning all helicopters on weekends during the summer season.

The steps, which would address 74 percent of all complaints while only affecting 31 percent of all flights, were outlined as the board heard the third and final phase of the independent noise analysis performed by Harrison Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., which was contracted to do the study by the town.

The first two phases of the noise study looked into the number of flights into and out of the airport and the complaints associated with them.

The third part of the noise analysis looked into different ways the town could solve the problem in a “reasonable, non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory” way.

“The town board recognizes the value of the East Hampton Airport to the community and does not want to impose any greater restriction than is necessary to achieve the town’s objectives,” Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said in a press release issued on Wednesday afternoon.

Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez has acted as airport liaison since she took office in January 2014 and sponsored the draft legislation for the four specific regulations presented by HMMH Senior Vice President Ted Baldwin.

What the third phase of the study really did, according to Mr. Baldwin, was to predict the result of each possible restriction by using flight and complaint data from October 2013 through October 2014 so that the town would be able to gain a handle on how many flights and how many complaints would be affected by any rule change.

“We based it on 12 months of operations and complaints,” Mr. Baldwin explained,” the most recent 12 months of information we have.”

The four recommendations, all of which the town is considering adopting as local laws, collectively could address 74 percent of all aircraft complaints and would only affect 31 percent of the airport’s annual operations, restricting only the types of aircraft at the times of day, week and year that are associated with the greatest number of complaints.

The first restriction would be to make the airport’s year-round voluntary curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. mandatory. According to the work done by HMMH, 4.9 percent of all complaints last year were associated with operations that would be forbidden if the curfew were enforced.

The second restriction would extend the curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for noisy aircraft. Noisy aircraft are those with approach levels at 91 decibels or higher. The town will soon be publishing a list of all aircraft that meet that definition, Mr. Baldwin said.

The third proposed regulation would ban all helicopter flights on weekends and holidays during the summer season. The summer season has been defined as lasting from May 1 through September 30 and the weekend, for the purposes of the law, would start at noon on Thursday and end at noon Monday.

The weekend helicopter ban, in addition to the first two restrictions, would put a huge dent in the number of complaints filed, according to HMMH. Helicopters accounted for 14,935 complaints last year alone, with 12,944 of those complaints were called in during weekend hours.

The last restriction would prohibit noisy aircraft from conducting more than two flights in any calendar week during the summer, in an effort to prevent touch-and-go operations.

All told, helicopter traffic would be restricted the most, by 75.9 percent annually, while plane and jet flights would be reduced by approximately 13.7 percent, if the town chooses to adopt the restrictions.

Peter Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney, explained that each regulation should be presented as its own separate local law in order to give the public the opportunity to meaningfully comment on each specific restriction.

Violating the laws, if adopted, would be a misdemeanor punishable by fines and possible jail terms ranging from $1,000 or/and 90 days in jail for the first offense to a fine of up to $10,000 for the third offense. A fourth violation would see the individual aircraft banned from the airport for a period of up to two years.

“This was designed to make sure that users understand the town board is serious about the restrictions,” Mr. Kirsch said.

Local officials present were not prepared comment on the legislation, but many got up to thank the board for their transparency and inclusiveness during the process.

“I want to commend the town board for the openness and transparency,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“This is how government is supposed to work and I think you’ve shown a fine process, it’s very, very important, there’s a lot of information here, the most important part of this is that it’s fact based and the public’s had the opportunity to comment,” he added.

Bob Malafronte, one of just two Southampton residents on the town’s airport noise subcommittee, also thanked the board for its work.

“It has been a hell of a long road, but we can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

A few aviation enthusiasts were present, and expressed their concern with the legislation. Bonnie Krupinski warned the town it was going down the path to closing the airport, and Cindy Herbst of Sound Aircraft said “even if half of these are initiated it’s the demise of East Hampton Airport and Sound Aircraft Services.”

Gerard Boleis, chairman of the airport planning committee’s aviation subcommittee, said his committee was unanimously against the regulations and warned that this could lead to “years of litigation and hundreds and thousands of dollars the town might lose.”

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesperson for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport coalition, submitted the following statement:

“The town has proposed an unprecedented and drastic set of restrictions that would block access to a federally funded airport, discriminate against helicopters and other operators and will likely fail to ever go into effect for a variety of reasons. If enacted, the town board’s recommendations would essentially shut down the airport during the summer,” he said.

“In addition, the town’s 2015 budget relies on an increase in air traffic. Today’s proposed restrictions would cut traffic by 31 percent, thus creating a significant budget deficit and forcing property tax increases,” he added. Mr. Riegelhaupt continued to say that these restrictions would cause a decrease in real estate value.

Airport opponents say the incessant aircraft noise has already caused a decrease in real estate values, and that noise abatement measures would in fact improve the value of the property near the airport.

Over the next few days, the airport’s budget and financial advisory committee will analyze the regulations to ensure the airport can remain sustainable. Peter Wadsworth, a member of BFAC, said he believes it’s possible to finance a reasonable level of capital programs at the airport and that it’s also possible to make up the possible loss of revenue if these restrictions are put in place.

The town is slated to vote to notice the legislation for public hearing at their next work session on Tuesday, February 10. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at LTV Studios. Comments can be submitted to HTOcomments@EHamptonNY.gov. A copy of all of the legislation and supporting data will be uploaded to www.HTOPlanning.com.

Aviation Enthusiasts, Charter Companies File Two Complaints

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By Mara Certic

Just days before the East Hampton Board was scheduled to discuss draft legislation to impose for the first time restrictions at East Hampton Airport in an attempt to reduce noise complaints, an organization of aviation advocates and business owners has taken two legal steps it says are aimed at preserving equal access to the airport.

The coalition filed suit on Thursday, January 29, in federal District Court against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its administrator, Michael Huerta, and challenges the settlement in 2005 of a case involving airport opponents. The second complaint was made to the FAA—asking it to direct the town to complete work to close what it calls “critical safety and security gaps at the airport.”

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport coalition comprises small local businesses, aviation experts, business leaders and national aviation advocates. In addition to the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, four New York City-based helicopter charter companies, one jet charter company and the Helicopter Association International are listed as co-plaintiffs.

“Our coalition is eager to work with the town, the FAA and our fellow residents to help resolve complaints related to noise, but we won’t do it in a way that compromises safety or violates federal law,” Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a press release issued on Thursday.

The first complaint filed by the coalition on Thursday is asking the court to determine that the FAA lacked the authority in a settlement agreement in 2005 to waive commitments East Hampton Town made when it accepted FAA funding. That decision has been interpreted by the current town government as meaning as of the first of the year it is free to impose use restrictions, such as curfews, at the airport.

In 2001, the town received a $1.4 million grant from the FAA, which normally, would have required the town to enforce certain commitments (called grant assurances,) for 20 years. It was later determined that the grant was acquired for guidelines and projects included in the 1996 airport master plan, which had never formally been adopted by the town board.

In a 2005 settlement with the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, the FAA agreed not to enforce the grant restrictions related to the town’s proprietary power over the airport after December 31, 2014.

The coalition maintains the FAA has been inconsistent and mentioned a recent case involving the Santa Monica Airport in California, where the FAA stated that it “may not by agreement waive its statutory enforcement jurisdiction over future cases.”

“The coalition said that the inconsistency in the FAA’s position must be resolved quickly, because the town is actively considering the imposition of discriminatory restrictions as to the times, number and type of aircraft that can access the airport now that the FAA has putatively stopped enforcing the equal access assurances,” reads a press release issued by the coalition on Thursday.

“They’re still peddling this tired conspiracy theory that the town’s trying to shut down the airport,” said Pat Trunzo, a former town board member and one of the members of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion.

Mr. Trunzo said he does not believe the suit will go too far, and that there isn’t really much question as to whether the FAA had the authority to waive the town’s commitments.

The noise subcommittee has been very careful when formulating how it phrases its recommendations, according to Mr. Trunzo, which, he said, led him to believe any challenges are unlikely to be fruitful.

“Any challenges to the town adopting a nighttime curfew are looking at equally dim prospects of success,” he said.

The second complaint asks the FAA to direct the town to address several safety and security issues the coalition says have long been ignored. Some of the improvements include replacing the lighting system, building a deer fence and removing some “hazardous obstructions,” including trees.

According to Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, many of the “ safety and security issues” brought up in the coalition’s complaint have been subject to town resolutions in the past year and have already been bonded for, and some have been completed.

An engineer is currently creating plans for deer fencing for the airport, and specs for an automated airport weather station are being drawn up in time for it to be installed before summer, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

“Despite claims by the board that the town can fund the airport and its maintenance without FAA grants, the board is contemplating arbitrary and discriminatory aircraft restrictions that would drastically reduce airport traffic during peak months, slashing the airport’s revenue and further depriving the airport of desperately needed safety and security improvements,” the coalition release states.

Last December, members of the airport finance subcommittee presented a report on airport revenue, which concluded that even if FAA funding was eliminated and the number of helicopters was reduced by half, the airport is in good financial shape.

Several revenue enhancements, including a paid parking system and some property rentals, could create even more income for the town, according to the budget committee.

Airport Noise Committee Recommends Curfews, Limits and Banning The Loudest Choppers

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By Mara Certic

If the East Hampton Airport Planning Committee’s noise subcommittee get its way, strict curfews, limits on weekly operations and a complete ban on the loudest helicopters could be in effect by Memorial Day of this year.

Those were among the key recommendations made by the group to the town board in its final report, which was delivered on Tuesday, January 21.

The subcommittee, which is made up of members of the community on the East End who say they have suffered from airport noise, has held bimonthly meetings since it was formed early last year, to discuss the best way to tackle what many say is a decades-old problem.

David Gruber, chairman of the subcommittee, presented the recommendations to the town board.

“Noise due to aircraft has vexed this community for 30 years,” Mr. Gruber said, adding that the community has consistently asked the airport remain small and recreational, and that it not be allowed to be expanded into a busy commercial airport.

The first two phases of an independent noise analysis study contracted by the town were presented at the end of last year and corroborated much of what the anti-noise community had been saying for years: They are most bothered by aircraft arriving late at night and early in the morning and especially when there is a high frequency of flights, such as on busy summer weekends.

The analyses, the last of which will be presented on Tuesday, February 3, provided much of the basis for the noise committee’s suggestions.

The group’s proposal, which was endorsed by the Quiet Skies Coalition in a press release distributed on Tuesday afternoon, first recommends aircraft be rated into three categories: noisiest, noisy and quiet.

The noisiest aircraft tend to be helicopters and jets, while the quietest ones tend to be aircraft flown by recreational pilots. According to the Quiet Skies Coalition, this demonstrates the subcommittee’s “support for continued unlimited access to the airport by local pilots.”

According to flight information determined by Vector Reports, only 27 percent of the airport’s fleet, both those based there and those that visit, would fall into the noisiest category.

The noisiest aircraft, however, account for 54 percent of all landings at the airport.

The committee then proposed a number of restrictions based on those three categories.

The first is that operations by the noisiest types of aircraft (which measure in at more than 91 decibels) would be prohibited from 5 p.m. until 9 a.m. every day and be restricted to conducting just one trip per week, year-round. These noisiest aircraft would also be subjected to a noise pollution surcharge during summer weekends and holidays.

The noisiest helicopters would be banned entirely.  According to Mr. Gruber, the three most popular types of helicopters, the Sikorsky S-76, the Airbus Helicopters Écureuil, and the Airbus Helicopters TwinStar, account for two- thirds of all helicopter operations at the airport. They all also would be classified as the noisiest type and would be banned, under the rules. At 95.6 decibels, the Sikorsky helicopters are the loudest regularly using the airport.

The aircraft classified as merely noisy would only be subjected to a late curfew, and would not be allowed to land or take off after 7 p.m. or before 8 a.m.

“We believe it is time for the town to ask all airport users to employ the best and quietest aviation,” Mr. Gruber said, adding that there are many quiet alternatives available for all different kinds of aircraft.

“Helicopters in the Noisy (but not Noisiest) class, that would therefore be subject only to a late curfew, include the Eurocopter EC-155, the Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri, and the MD Helicopters MD600,” Mr. Gruber said.

“Of 13,000 landing operations last year, two-thirds were by commercial operators,” Mr. Gruber said. The remaining third, Mr. Gruber said, the local recreational pilots, would only be affected by the new curfew rule, as their aircraft tend to be the quietest.

“Local aviators have never been the problem,” former Town Councilman, noise subcommittee member and member of the Quiet Skies Coalition Pat Trunzo said in a press release from the Quiet Skies Coalition.

“Noise complaint data coupled with the proposed noise emissions categorization support that,” he added.

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesperson for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport released the following statement:

“While we had hoped the committee would offer new ideas that could generate a meaningful debate, instead they offered a set of old proposals that are ultimately aimed at closing the airport. Enacting these plans will severely impact local businesses and the local economy and create a huge gap in the town budget that taxpayers will ultimately have to make up for with higher property taxes. Rather than trying to close the airport, we should be working together to find common-sense solutions that protect our community’s access to aviation and the economic benefits that the airport provides.”

Also during Tuesday’s work session, Barry Holden, one of just three Southampton Town residents on the airport noise subcommittee, submitted a petition with more than 700 signatures to the town, echoing the recommendations of his group.

HMMH, the company conducting phase three of the noise analysis, will present its findings to the board on February 3. The firm will also present its recommended legislation which “may or may not be based on the noise committee’s recommendation,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Tuesday.

The East Hampton Town Board had a special meeting in executive session on Wednesday, January 21, with their attorneys and outside counsel to discuss both pending and potential litigation related to the airport, Mr. Cantwell said.

 

 

 

 

 

Analysts Present East Hampton Airport Phase II Noise Study, Discuss Possible Solutions

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Sag Harbor, Noyac and Shelter Island all had very high numbers of complaints about helicopter noise. This map shows where the “hotspots” of complaint density were. Image courtesy of  HMMH. 

By Mara Certic

Much like an earlier report did, the East Hampton Airport Phase II Noise Analysis report confirmed what many of the residents who are affected by noise on both forks have been saying for years: The problem is regional and it is extreme.

After over an hour of public comment from both airport critics and supporters on Tuesday, Ted Baldwin, of the environmental consulting firm Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc. (HMMH), presented the second stage of the independent noise analysis contracted by the East Hampton Town Board, as part of its effort to tackle to long-standing issue of noise pollution from the East Hampton Airport.

The Phase I analysis report, which was prepared by Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, Young Environmental Sciences and the volunteer work of Peter Wadsworth, attracted criticism from the Friends of the East Hampton Airport. One of the main complaints about the first phase of the analysis, which was presented to the board and the public on October 30, was the use of 2013 data, rather than information from this year, which they said was “intentionally misleading” and showed that the study’s results were “hopelessly flawed and unusable.”

Perhaps in order to dispel some of the criticism of the first study, the second phase of the analysis was done using data from November 1, 2013 through October 31, 2014. In that period of time, 23,954 aircraft complaints were received and recorded.

“That’s an extraordinary number of complaints,” said Mr. Baldwin, who began his career as a noise officer at Logan International Airport in Boston, he said.

“We never received that level of complaints,” he said, adding the number of complaints logged at Logan has increased, but still amounts to only 1,000 to 1,200 per month.

“So there’s a very good reason we’re meeting here,” he added.

Mr. Baldwin explained the analysis of complaint statistics, including how many times specific households filed complaints. The almost 24,000 complaints came from 633 different households, he said. The top 10 complainers submitted over 400 complaints each, with the highest logging 2,800 throughout the year.

Mr. Baldwin said this was representative of common human behavior, and added that 500 households submitted over 20 complaints over the year.

He also looked at where the complaints came from, and found that the problem “covers the whole East End of Long Island.” Using this information, Mr. Baldwin found that areas where the highest number of helicopter complaints come from are in Sag Harbor, Noyac, North Sea and Shelter Island.

Analyzing complaint data showed that helicopter noise seems to be the real culprit, particularly when there are frequent operations taking place early in the morning and late at night.

Using the program Vector, which records the number of flight operations, Mr. Baldwin found there to have been approximately 26,000 operations during the year. Interestingly, 25 percent of all operations were conducted by 25 specific aircraft—14 of which were helicopters, five of which were single turbopropeller seaplanes, five of which were propeller aircraft and one was a jet.

Vector data also showed the airport’s busy season lasts from May 1 through October 31, and Mr. Baldwin noted that it is not unusual for specific aircraft to conduct several round trips on any given day, particularly helicopters and turboprops on weekends in the high season.

Katie van Heuven, of Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell, the town’s aviation attorney, then explained some of the solutions the town is considering, and some of the ideas that have already been rejected.

“The charge that the town gave us as consultants coming out of the October 30 meeting was two-fold. One, help refine the data into a precise problem statement which Ted has done a terrific job of doing,” she said.

“And two, going back to that list of alternatives,” she said, “how do these eight categories of restrictions line up with the problem,” she added.

The analysts have already deemed certain options unreasonable alternatives. Doing nothing, using fee-based alternatives, residential acquisition, sound insulation and federal restrictions have all been rejected as possible solutions.

After Mr. Baldwin used data to precisely define the problem, legal analysts have found that time-based restrictions may well provide part of a reasonable solution to the growing noise problem on the East End.

They will continue to analyze other options before presenting a complete plan, including a slot system, which could limit flights by time or type, certain voluntary measures and by banning certain types of aircraft.

Many members of the public who spoke during Tuesday morning’s work session suggested that a ban on helicopters was the only way to stop the problem. A North Fork resident named Adam Irving said the newly formed North Fork Helicopter Committee supports a full ban on the aircraft.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m asking for a total ban on helicopters,” she said. “Please consider being a good neighbor.”

Both the first and second phases of the airport noise analysis are available on the town’s website.

East Hampton Airport Supporters Blast Noise Study

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Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. addressed the town board and the public at the presentation of the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on Thursday morning. 

By Mara Certic

The analysts studying the aircraft noise problem at East Hampton Airport presented the first stage of their noise study last Thursday. They said what many airport critics have claimed in the past few years: The vast majority of helicopter pilots are not complying with voluntary noise abatement procedures, and the number of instances in which noise exceeds the recommended limits is astronomically high.

In response, the Friends of the East Hampton Airport sent out a letter on Wednesday, November 5, calling on the Suffolk County comptroller to conduct a thorough review of the $60,000 of public funds that were used to conduct this study.

The town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, and analysts Les Blomberg, Henry Young and Peter Wadsworth presented the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on East Hampton Airport to the East Hampton Town Board and the public on the morning of Thursday, October 30.

“This is the kind of process that usually goes on very quietly,” Mr. Kirsch said, explaining the town board has been adamant about involving the community and seeking public comment at every opportunity.

Using a plethora tools and graphs, Mr. Blomberg, of Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, showed the board and a group of concerned citizens how different factors contribute to the noise problem on the East End. The noise problem is at its worst during summer months, with operations and complaints peaking on Friday and Sunday evenings and early Monday mornings.

When trying to determine the rate of helicopter compliance with the voluntary noise abatement routes, Mr. Blomberg first found that he did not have the data for approximately 40 percent of helicopter flights.

Without that missing data, Mr. Blomberg found that overall only 15.3 percent of helicopter pilots comply with height restrictions and the voluntary noise abatement routes. Of those arriving over Georgica Pond, 37.7 percent comply with voluntary procedures, he said, but that is by far the highest rate of compliance. Only 1.9 percent of those departing over Jessup’s Neck in Noyac are complying with the voluntary measures, and just 3.9 percent of helicopters leaving over Barcelona Point east of Sag Harbor are following those guidelines.

The Friends of East Hampton Airport called the study “wildly misleading and inaccurate” in a release accompanying a letter to Supervisor Larry Cantwell. According to the airport supporters, the compliance data presented on Thursday is “entirely incorrect” and claimed the town’s records show higher levels of compliance.

Mr. Blomberg identified every parcel within 10 miles of the airport and then, using the noise criteria from the East Hampton Town Code, determined every time an aircraft caused a noise “exceedance” for each property — the number of times each parcel experiences a noise impact over the limit.

Using this model, Mr. Blomberg found that in 2013, properties within 10 miles of the airport were affected by aircraft noise that measured above town code levels a total of 31.8 million times. This comes down to noise exceeding the daytime limit of 65 decibels 16.7 million times, and going over 50 decibels between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. 15.1 million times.

“There was no operation that did not exceed the noise ordinance at some point,” Mr. Blomberg said, but added the “rattle” effect of helicopters draws more attention to their noise, and is often found to be more annoying.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport criticized the analysts for using this data, claiming, “this inflammatory data purported to show millions of “exceedances” of the town’s noise ordinance.  There is no community in the United States that bases aviation noise restrictions on such measures because federal law has preempted the regulation of aviation noise.”

The letter also said the use of data from 2013 rather than 2014 is “intentionally misleading, and at the very least, it shows that the Noise Study’s results are hopelessly flawed and unusable.”

Supervisor Cantwell on Wednesday said the decision to use last year’s data was because “the analysis has been ongoing and the 2014 year is not complete. The consultants chose one full complete year of data and that was 2013.”

Mr. Wadsworth, the only volunteer analyst, conducted a study of the noise complaints. From January to September of this year, air traffic control showed there were 22,350 flight operations in and out of the airport. In the same period of time there have been 22,700 complaints. The vast majority of those complaints were for helicopter operations, which only account for one third of all aircraft operations.

By looking at where each complaint came from, Mr. Wadsworth determined most airport noise complaints come from the Town of Southampton. At 23 percent, most of the complaints came from Noyac, followed by Sag Harbor at 17 percent, Shelter Island at 15 percent and the North Fork at 13 percent. Another 12.5 percent of all complaints come from the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, he said.

The analysis of complaints also angered the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, who said the data was meaningless unless the number of complainants, and how many times each person complained was included.

Mr. Wadsworth’s study did not include the number of times each person called, but page six of his presentation was dedicated to a graph showing the number of households per town that filed complaints.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport said the data was unreliable also because it doesn’t “mention anywhere that the town ran ads asking people to call in.”

“Of course, when people want to make a complaint we want to make that system available to them,” Supervisor Cantwell said on Wednesday. “And when we have a complaint line we like to make people aware of it.”

One of the most common grievances of those troubled by aircraft noise is the lengthy and difficulty complaint process. In recent meetings, residents from East Hampton, Southampton and even the North Fork have said they have “given up” calling the complaint hotline.

“It’s hardly surprising to me that the Friends of the East Hampton Airport would be critical of what we’re trying to do,” Mr. Cantwell said, but added: “We’re always happy to have the suggestions and recommendations of the helicopter industry and from Save East Hampton Airport.”

The town is actively seeking public comment on the aircraft noise problem asks written comments be submitted to HTOcomments@EhamptonNY.gov.

 

Airport Special Meeting

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Noise consultants for East Hampton Town will present the first phase of their airport noise analysis at a special meeting on Thursday, October 30, at 10 a.m.

Henry Young and Les Blomberg of Young Environmental Sciences will present the interim report to the board. Afterward Peter Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney, will speak on some of the potential next steps and alternatives.

Thursday’s meeting is the first stage of the town’s noise abatement efforts. The board voted last month to impose regulations on the airport in an effort to mitigate the noise pollution in East Hampton and the surrounding communities.

The meeting on Thursday morning will take place at the East Hampton Village Emergency Services Building, 1 Cedar Street in East Hampton.

Taking Aim at Airport Noise

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The East Hampton Town Board unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday, September 18, to put in regulations at East Hampton Airport in order to curtail an ongoing and increasing noise problem.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, was read aloud and discussed at a work session on Tuesday, September 16.

Without naming any specific regulations, the town board resolved to identify and adopt regulations that would address noise disturbances from the airport. Henk Houtenbos, a local pilot, spoke during the public portion of Thursday’s meeting.  He brought up a resolution passed by the previous town board on August 2012, which “announced its intent to pursue use restrictions on operations at the airport.”

“What I noticed as well is that there were two members of this council who actually voted against that resolution. It was Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby,” Mr. Houtenbos said.

He asked how those two members of the board planned on voting on Thursday, and what, if anything has changed.

Mr. Van Scoyoc told him to “stay tuned.” All four of the board members present voted for the resolution. Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting, said last week the board hopes to have proposed aircraft regulations drafted by Christmas.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board unanimously voted to send Peter Boody, senior airport attendant, to a free workshop in Washington, D.C., this month sponsored by Whereas Exelis, Inc. The company provides aircraft tracking services at the town airport.