Tag Archive | "east hampton airport"

Committee Says Airport Can Stand on its Own

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By Stephen J. Kotz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Hopes Agreement Leads to Fewer Helicopter Noise Complaints

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A voluntary agreement to regulate helicopter traffic at East Hampton Airport that is hoped will reduce noise complaints was unveiled before the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

“Do we have to talk about helicopters? Do we have to do this?” quipped Supervisor Larry Cantwell, referring to the controversy increased helicopter traffic has caused in recent years, before Peter Boody, the recently appointed assistant to airport manager Jim Brundige, began his presentation.

Mr. Boody was accompanied by Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group that, he said, counts among its members all of the pilots who typically use the airport.

The agreement, which largely focuses on asking helicopter pilots to maintain minimum altitudes and set routes into and out of the airport, was struck between the council, the airport manager’s office, the control tower, and a pair of town airport subcommittees—one that is made up of airport users and another that is made up of anti-noise activists.

“Most of these routes were in effect last year” when noise complaints declined from about 11,000 to approximately 6,700, Mr. Boody said.

The difference, he said, is that the airport will now monitor flight data from its air traffic control tower. When a complaint is received or a monitor notices that a pilot has not followed the recommended flight path, the information will be forwarded to Mr. Smith of the helicopter council, who will address the concerns with the offending pilot.

“I’ve already had this conversation with every one of my members,” Mr. Smith said. “They have all agreed this is doable.”

“That’s what Jeff and I will be doing all summer long, talking about these problems,” said Mr. Boody after reviewing a few examples on a PowerPoint presentation that showed the paths of helicopters that did not follow the designated routes.

“It’s remarkable how much eagerness there is to comply,” said Mr. Boody. He added, though, that in the summer, as traffic picks up, pilots tend to not follow the routes as precisely as they can. There is also some confusion, he said, among those who don’t understand the new routes.

Mr. Boody said a key element to the new approach is convincing pilots of the need to maintain reasonable altitudes as they approach or leave the airport.

“There have been ups and downs,” Mr. Boody said of efforts to control helicopter traffic. “Generally that the trend is up in terms of altitude is true.”

He conceded, though, that while getting pilots to fly at higher altitudes “affects the intensity of the noise, it doesn’t make it go away.”

Helicopters using a northeasterly route are asked to attain an altitude of at least 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and climb to 3,000 feet by the time they pass over Barcelona Neck and fly over the bay, over the South Ferry channel and on toward the North Fork.

About 30 percent of helicopters use a southerly route that passes over Georgica Pond. They too are asked to climb to 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and over the center of Georgica Pond before turning at the cut at a preferred height of 3,000 feet.

Mr. Smith said that fewer helicopters use the southern route because airplane and jet traffic is already concentrated at that end of the airport, often making the skies too crowded.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby asked whether air traffic controllers could direct helicopter pilots to follow a set route, but Mr. Boody said since the routes are voluntary, the air traffic controllers would have no authority to direct them.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc expressed reservations about the whole idea of sending most flights northward over land that the town, county, and state had spent millions of dollars to protect as open space.

“We have now created a helicopter superhighway to the Hamptons over an area we preserved,” he said. “I find that a troubling contradiction.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc was also perturbed Mr. Smith told him that larger, larger twin-engine helicopters will be sent north over Northwest Harbor and Cedar Point along the eastern edge of Shelter Island before heading out over Orient Point.

“So, the heavies which are 50 percent of the traffic will now be going the length of Northwest Harbor,” he said, adding quietly, “terrific.”

 

Peter Boody

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Boody

 

 

 

Peter Boody of North Haven, who has enjoyed a long career as a newspaper editor on the East End, but whose first love has always been aviation, talks about his new job as an assistant to Jim Brundige, the manager of the East Hampton Airport.

By Stephen J. Kotz

So you have given up the life of a journalist to become the East Hampton Airport senior attendant. What do your new duties entail?

It sounds a little bit like a guy in the white suit restraining patients in an asylum, but the attendant is responsible for answering the Unicom frequency [an information service for pilots], accepting fuel deliveries, and many other things. What impresses me is how much paperwork and recordkeeping there is. Basically, my job will be to help Jim Brundige who has been working on his own since the fall.

The town has been hiring graduates of Dowling College who have aviation management degrees, but often they leave after a year or so. I think maybe the town board thought it might be good to hire a guy who is a local, is experienced, and who is not going to be going away.

Besides your love of flying, what special qualifications do you bring to the job?

I have a long history at the airport. I worked there when I was in high school and I’ve operated there. Being a reporter and editor out here for 30 years, I covered the airport as a neutral observer, not as a fan or pilot, and I’m aware of a lot of the issues that have been part of the airport’s history. They are still important issues, with noise being the biggest one. I think I understand the pressure town board members are working under.

Noise is clearly the top issue. What can be done to see that the complaints of people who are fed up listening to helicopters and planes will be addressed?

There is lots of information coming in on software that tracks airplanes and helicopters. We can follow the flight path and the altitude. I’ll be doing lots of work tracking down noise complaints. I’ll also be observing how well helicopters are going to be following the voluntary flight paths. If not, we’ll go to after those operators and say you have to comply or otherwise we’ll have a town that wants to shut its airport. We don’t have a lot of power right now. That is one of the issues the town board is pondering: If we don’t take FAA grants will we have more authority to restrict certain operators. It’s a very complex legal issue.

What sparked your interest in flying?

I was a summer kid in Bridgehampton in 1965 and I was out on the golf course of the Bridgehampton Club when someone landed a glider on the eighth fairway. The canopy opened and out popped this kid who was no older than me. His name was Bill Stegman and I would later go on to work with him at Montauk Caribbean Airlines.

I ran home and told my dad I really wanted to take flying lessons. My dad said he would match every dollar I saved. My grandfather was one of the first guys to get his wings in the navy, so I had heard him talk about flying. I became obsessed with it. I eventually took lessons at Teterboro Airport near our home in New Jersey. When I was 16, on July 4, 1967, I did my first solo. I only had eight hours [of flight time.] But all you had to do was take off… and come and land. Looking back, I barely knew how to do that, but I did know enough to come back and not wreck the plane.

Later, I went to work for Montauk Caribbean, which had regularly scheduled flights to New York. I was what they called a line boy. I fueled airplanes, drove the fuel truck, did all sorts of things from dispatching to loading the planes and taking the money from the passengers.

 Will you miss journalism?

I’ve been looking for a way to retire gracefully from the news business, but I think I will miss journalism very much. I will continue to try to do a thing I’ve been doing every week, which is writing an interview for The Shelter Island Reporter, which have been doing for the past year.

I think that what has frustrated me is the dumbing down of standards. I think stories are a lot less crisp, clear and precise than they used to be, not just where I’ve worked but everywhere. There is a looseness in writing because there has been a change in standards.  Part of that comes from the web, part of it is how we are educating people, and part of it is from tendencies in the culture.

 

East Hampton Plans Airport Noise Study

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By Stephen J. Kotz

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez announced on Tuesday that the town would undertake a noise study this summer with an eye toward developing use restrictions at East Hampton Airport.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said the town would take a somewhat novel approach that would seek to use both “noise averaging” data, which is typically required by the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as try to determine whether aircraft operations violate town law, which limits noise to 65 decibels during the daytime and 50 at night.

The town wants to have a consultant hired by early June, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

The dual-pronged approach represents a compromise between two separate noise subcommittees the town board established earlier this year to advise it on airport issues. One of those subcommittees is made up exclusively of members of the aviation community and the other is made up of people who want the town to reduce noise coming from the airport.

Noise subcommittee members did not want the traditional noise averaging study done, which was recommended by DY Consultants, the town’s aviation engineering consultants, because it would take too long, cost too much, and not provide completely accurate information, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

The town has a number of software programs that track not only the number of flights but the type of aircraft, whether it be a Sikorsky helicopter, a Gulfstream corporate jet or a Cessna single-engine plane, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. In addition, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, whoever conducts the study will be able to obtain detailed operating decibel information from aircraft manufacturers to help them generate an accurate computer modeling to map noise as an aircraft leaves or approaches the airport.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez cautioned that the study would be preliminary in nature but stressed that it could be used to help determine what types of restrictions the town could consider imposing once some F.A.A. grant restrictions expire at the end of the year.

Separately, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been appointed to the noise subcommittee. Ms. Scalera announced her appointment at Tuesday night’s Noyac Civic Council meeting just as a helicopter passed overhead, drowning out her words.

Conversation with Kathy Cunningham

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Kathy Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

Kathy Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition talks about the changing of the guard on the East Hampton Town Board, the finances at the airport and her hopes for quieter skies in 2015

 

This year has brought a number of changes regarding the East Hampton Airport, chief amongst those the election of a new majority on the East Hampton Town Board and the appointment of Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez as airport liaison. What impact has that had in discussing noise abatement at the airport?

We have already seen a positive impact. Kathee has my full confidence. She is smart, she gets it, she is equitable and she is really a public servant. She is not a politician so I think that really helps motivate her to do something that this community has been in desperate need of for a long time.

 

A subcommittee BFAC has been charged with looking at airport finances in an effort to complete a full audit of airport expenses and revenues. What does QSC hope this accounting will lead to?

It has already discovered revenue streams at the airport that have been unreported until now. Our hope is that the airport can be financially self-sustaining, which would free us from FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) grant assurances for maintenance and capital improvements there that are necessary. If we can pay for them ourselves we don’t have to keep the airport open 365 days a year for 24 hours a day, which is just one access limitation we could legally impose once we are out from under the grant assurances. That will actually happen as of January 1, 2015, a date I thought I would never live to see, quite frankly.

 

What are some of the other access limitations QSC would like to see the town consider?

Well, limits to helicopter traffic, enforceable curfews. We don’t have a specific base of information from which to make recommendations about how much that should be limited but early indications show 70 percent of noise can be addressed by an enforceable curfew and limiting helicopter traffic and I think that would go a long way towards mitigating noise on the East End, not just in East Hampton.

 

An Airport Planning Committee—made up of two subcommittees including those in the noise affected community and those in the aviation community—has also been appointed by the town board to look at both noise abatement and capital projects. What do you hope they can accomplish?

Before an alleged press release was sent out [by the aviation subcommittee regarding noise complaint data] I had hoped there would be an opportunity for the noise affected community to sit down with the aviation community and really express what our basic concerns are because I don’t think they have ever understood it from our point of view. I think the fear is that we want to close the airport, which is not what we want to do. Noise mitigation does not equal close the airport and if we just had a chance to sit down and discuss this it might help, but it has been so polarized.

 

What do you say to the noise affected as we go into a potentially sticky season when it comes to air traffic?

Well, this will be the last summer the town will not have the ability to limit access to its airport. As of January 1, 2015 they will be able to say, closed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. or whatever curfew they demand and no one can come in unless it is an emergency or military operation. But this summer, we will not have those options.

What we really need the noise affected to do this summer is to call the noise complaint hotline (537-LOUD, 1-800-376-4817). Noise complaint data is a flawed concept because it implies without a noise complaint there was no noise event, which is untrue. We have not been able at this point to calculate complaint fatigue.

What we learned last summer in the court ruling that upheld the FAA’s ability to mandate routes based on noise complaints is that they matter—the complaints are data that matter. That was a precedent setting case.

 

So this summer more than ever, it’s important to call or log in with the town if you are affected by aircraft noise.

In terms of the complaint data, we are not raised to be complainers, and that is one of the reasons the data has shown a drop off. I know one person who logged 500 complaints before last year and just stopped. 500 complaints out of 3,000 for a summer is a huge percentage of that figure.

Part of our difficulty will be convincing those who used to call in to start calling in again. It takes a certain amount of dedication. But we really need this data. Recognize that this is a civic duty and you will really be contributing to an effort that will allow the Town of East Hampton to do something productive at the end of the calendar year.

Solar Farm Pitched for East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The East Hampton Airport could be going green in a big way.

Tonight, the town board plans to accept the recommendation of its energy sustainability committee and seek proposals for a solar farm at the airport that could produce up to 38 megawatts as part of an initiative sponsored by the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, the company that manages the island’s electrical grid.

The solar farm would sell the power it generates to PSEG Long Island, and share the proceeds with the town through a 20-year lease.

According to Frank Dalene, the chairman of the committee, the solar farm, which he said would be one of the largest town-owned facilities in the country, could generate up to $3.5 million a year for the life of the lease.

“It’s at step one,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, “but it’s exciting. Besides providing a source of sustainable energy, it has the potential to bring in revenue.”

Although Mr. Cantwell said Mr. Dalene’s revenue estimate may be on the optimistic side, he was quick to point out, “Even at $1 million a year that would go a long way toward funding airport improvements.”

Because the airport revenues and expenses are segregated into a separate fund, all revenue generated from a solar farm at the airport would have to be used on site.

Mr. Dalene said the proposal is still in the early stages. “There are a lot of variables,” he said. PSEG Long Island “has to approve the contractors, the site and how it connects to the grid.”

Still, he said, in this latest phase, the company has committed to sponsoring larger renewable energy projects that could generate a total of 280 megawatts islandwide.

“They are looking for the East End to fulfill a certain amount of the need,” he said. “The transmission lines are beyond their peak, the local power stations on Buell Lane and Southampton are at capacity, so they are really going to focus on the East End.”

According to the Long Island Power Authority, the typical Long Island house uses 9,548 kilowatts of energy a year. Mr. Dalene said a 38-megwatt solar farm could generate nearly 46 million kilowatts a year, enough to provide power to approximately 4,600 houses, although he added, “It’s safe to say the typical East Hampton house consumes more electricity than a typical Long Island house.”

Last month, the town board agreed to ask three contractors to provide smaller solar arrays of no more than 2 megawatts apiece at 10 town-owned sites.

The board will also seek proposals for the energy committee’s recommendation to solicit proposals for peak power energy storage centers that would use new fuel cell battery technology to store electricity that is generated during low-volume use periods for release during peak periods. The battery plants would play a similar role to the small diesel operated power plants that are scattered across Long Island.

The town must renew the proposals it receives and make its recommendations to PSEG and LIPA by March 31.

 

Split East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Capital Improvement Plan

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The East Hampton Town Board adopted a capital improvement plan for the East Hampton Airport during a work session Tuesday — a roadmap for $5.26 million in repairs and improvements consultants suggest be made to airport facilities over the course of the next five years.

Originally, the capital improvement plan (CIP) — unveiled just before a November 21 public hearing on the proposals — called for $10.45 million in airport repairs and projects over a five-year period. The adopted CIP was cut to $5.26 million with 15 proposed projects removed from the plan as they were not a part of the town board approved Airport Master Plan or Airport Layout Plan, both of which were vetted through environmental review.

The CIP was approved by the outgoing Republican majority of the town board. Airport liaison Dominick Stanzione, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted in support of the plan, with Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc voting against adopting the CIP.

East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige said the CIP is meant to highlight what projects are necessary at the airport. Quigley also noted that approving the CIP does not mean the board is approving any of the projects laid out in plan, or how has made a decision about how they will be funded. Rather she called the approval a “first step” in moving towards improvements at the airport first identified in the town’s airport master plan.

However, both Overby and Van Scoyoc expressed concerns about a footnote in the document that references Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding. The CIP, according to testimony given by town aviation consultant Dennis Yap at the November 21 public hearing on the plan, will be submitted to the FAA. Van Scoyoc said he was concerned submitting the plan to the FAA was the first step towards securing additional grants from that agency for airport projects.

“It’s not a necessary step for us to send it to the FAA unless we are pursuing funding from the FAA,” he said.

For several years now, a number of residents and members of the Quiet Skies Coalition have encouraged the town board not to accept FAA funding as they believe when grant assurances expire in December of 2014 the town has the ability to gain greater control of the airport, including the potential to impose curfews or restrict certain aircraft.

Over 30 Protesters Picket at the East Hampton Airport Friday

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East Hampton Airport Protest

By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Laurie Barone-Schaefer

The Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC), an organization dedicated to addressing quality of life issues stemming from the East Hampton Airport, conducted a demonstration at the East Hampton Airport on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott last Friday evening. The event drew more than 30 residents and QSC members from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Springs, Wainscott and Noyac.

Residents carried signs, stood along Daniels Hole Road and at the tarmac exit hoping to raise the awareness of passengers and pilots that aircraft noise, particularly from helicopters, jets and seaplanes, has created a problem for some East End residents, said QSC chairwoman Kathy Cunningham in a press release issued Monday.

New to the protest this year were Rebecca Young and Bill Pickens of Sag Harbor Hills who, along with residents of Azurest and Ninevah and Merchants Path, are shouldering the biggest aircraft noise burden as a result of the new departure route brokered by the East Hampton Town Board to relieve the doubling of helicopter noise over Noyac last summer.

“The air traffic over our neighborhood has increased so much that it has negatively impacted our quality of life. We’d consider selling the house but this air traffic has decreased the value of our home,” said Becky Young.

“Route distribution is a losing strategy,” said Cunningham, “as the basic choice is to decide into which of your neighbor’s yards your going to throw your trash. Without meaningful access limits, someone is always going to be victimized by uncontrolled aircraft noise.”

“The only effective noise mitigation plan is to limit access to East Hampton Airport,” continued Cunningham. “In 16 short months, the East Hampton Town Board will legally be able to create reasonable aircraft noise policy by imposing curfews, limits on numbers and concentrations of flights and banning the noisiest aircraft altogether.”

The Quiet Skies Coalition will soon be publicizing results of town board candidates survey on airport noise issues.

 

East Hampton Airport Fees Hearing Brings Out Anti-Noise Advocates

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By Kathryn G. Menu

 

John Kirrane can’t vote in East Hampton Town, but he believes his quality of life and potentially the value of his Noyac home have been so damaged by the East Hampton Airport that he can no longer stay silent.

And he is not alone.

Kirrane was one of a half dozen speakers to take the podium at the East Hampton town board meeting during a public hearing last Thursday granting the board the ability to increase landing fees as a resolution rather than a local law.

After the hearing the town board adopted that local law and also unanimously altered the landing fees for 2013 at the airport.

According to the resolution, light single engine planes will see an increase from $7 to $10; light multi-engine propeller planes will see an increase from $15 to $10; single engine turbine planes will have to pay $84 as opposed to $74, multi-engine turbine planes will see an increase from $100 to $125; multi-engine turbine planes between 12,500 pounds and over 50,000 pounds will see increased fees from $250 to a maximum of $600 for the larger airplanes. Helicopter landing fees, depending on the model, will increase between $25 per landing to $500 per landing for the larger helicopters.

Projected landing fee revenues for 2013, based on this change, are estimated at $1,269,038.

Bur for Kirrane and the others who spoke at the public hearing, the primary concern was less about landing fees and more about ensuring noise from the airport is addressed. Specifically, they want to ensure the airport can financially support itself. They argued if the airport can support itself that would remove the need for the town to seek airport funding through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If the town board does not take more FAA funding, the speakers maintain, the town would have more control over its airport and could impose restrictions that could contend with airport noise.

Kirrane said outside of East Hampton, the airport is not only becoming viewed as a liability for that town, but for the whole East End.

“I have spent my career in financial planning,” Kirrane told the board. “I have seen business plans that stink and yours — I grew up in Brooklyn — it doesn’t smell good.”

Kirrane apologized throughout his dialogue for his manner.

“But I’m angry. I have had your trash thrown in my backyard for the last 10 months,” he said referring to aircraft noise pollution.

Kirrane said many believe a desire for airport expansion by a mere few in East Hampton Town is leading the charge behind the scenes.

“The appearance to the west is there are special interests here that are creating a situation where the good of the people is succumbing to the good of the few,” said Kirrane.

“It’s extremely frustrating I don’t have the opportunity to vote on this issue, but you have imposed an incredible tax on me and my neighbors,” said Kirrane, who added he supports increases in landing fees.

For many residents of Noyac it is the events of last summer — when two voluntary helicopter flight paths, one over Northwest Woods in East Hampton and one over Jessup’s Neck in Sag Harbor, was eliminated to just the Sag Harbor route — that represented the breaking point.

On Thursday night, councilwoman Theresa Quigley said she, too, was frustrated that decision happened outside the realm of the full town board through a committee including airport manager Jim Brundige and town councilman Dominick Stanzione as well as the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council.

“It is a serious problem we have to grapple with,” said Quigley. “It was been handled inappropriately.”

Quigley added she believed it was the town board’s responsibility to deal with that very issue.

“There are things that once something is done it is hard to undo,” said Kirrane. “If you are to give up control of your airport to the FAA it would be a mistake of magnitude far beyond my ability to forecast.”

He added that as a 50-year resident of Southampton Town, it is not his ideal to see the airport closed.

“Local pilots who have small planes, God bless them, I have no issue, but when we have people using gigantic helicopters and private jets that appear to have no place out here you can’t create enough routes,” he said.

Kathy Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC) — an organization dedicated to aiding those impacted by noise created by East Hampton Airport — called on the board to create a business plan for the airport to ensure it was self sustaining.

“Without a proper business plan how is anyone supposed to understand the impact the revenue stream will have on the airport’s financial self sustainability,” she asked.

Cunningham said while for years the airport has sustained itself, she believes the creation of the seasonal air traffic control tower — proposed to be permanent and something she believes is an expansion of the airport — demands a full financial plan for the airport.

Without such a plan, Cunningham surmised, the town will be forced to take FAA funding, which QSC maintains will erode any chance the town has of truly controlling air traffic into the airport come 2014 when previous grant assurances under the FAA expire.

“We all know under the FAA restrictions that come with funding your board is inhibited if not prohibited from exercising proprietary rights” over the airport, agreed QSC vice chairman Charles Ehrens.

“I would like to propose the fees be vastly increased with a portion distributed to residents who have lost the peaceful enjoyment of their homes,” agreed Steven Levine, a Sagaponack resident. “People contributing to the loss of peace and quiet should incur the full cost of the use of the facilities they use to get here.”

Town board members, including Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc noted the fee schedule had been altered to match those out of other airports, including New York City.

Residents Make Noise About East Hampton Airport

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Heller_Public Meeting @ EH Airport 5-1-13_9777

By Amanda Wyatt

As East Hampton Airport seeks to install a permanent, seasonal air traffic control tower, a number of East End residents are once again bringing the issue of airport noise to the forefront of that discussion.

Last Wednesday, roughly 60 residents turned out for a public hearing at the airport on an environmental assessment of the proposed control tower. And although the assessment does not cite noise as an area of concern, it was a high priority for many of the attendees.

According to Peter Byrne, senior airport planner at the Hauppauge-based firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., the hearing was part of a formal process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Byrne gave the audience an overview of the 26-feet, four-inch tower, which would be functional for roughly 16 hours a day between May and September.

From an enclosed glass cab, air traffic controllers would use a high frequency radio to communicate with aircraft owners. The tower would also come equipped with “a steady burning, red obstruction light,” he added.

Nonetheless, the majority of commenters at the hearing aired their grievances not about the tower, but about noise pollution generated by the airport in general.

Airport noise has been an issue debated in East Hampton and beyond for years, but became increasingly controversial last summer, when one of two recommended helicopter flight paths was eliminated, rerouting all helicopter traffic over Jessup’s Neck in Noyac.

Residents of the hamlet, along with North Sea, Sag Harbor and other surrounding areas, have reported a major increase in noise as a result. For the last year, those residents have been joined by government officials like Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Congressman Tim Bishop, Senator Charles Schumer, New York State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., among others including members of civic organizations, in calling for a comprehensive strategy to address helicopter noise stemming from the airport before another busy summer season begins.

At the same time, the environmental assessment discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting does not include Noyac or the surrounding area as being one impacted by the control tower. Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman who serves as the liaison to Noyac, asked that the area of study be expanded to include these locales.

The study “does not note anything about the concomitant increase in noise over Noyac, North Sea and the Sag Harbor area,” said Fleming. “The presence of the tower has a very real impact on those areas and the areas that are outside the study area.”

For Kathleen Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition, the control tower “offers safety, but it also increases capacity.”

Patricia Currie, a fellow Quiet Skies member, said, “Increased capacity is noise.”

Theresa Caskey, who traveled from Mattituck on the North Fork to give her testimony, said planes on their way to East Hampton were waking her up early in the morning.

Tom MacNiven of Wainscott added that holding a hearing mid-week was a problem for many second homeowners in the area and that it had not been properly publicized.

For some residents, the hearing was a chance for some show-and-tell.

William Reilly of Sag Harbor held up a stack of notebooks that recorded the “hundreds” of times he had called to complain about noise over the years.

And Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, played a tape of helicopter noise she had recorded at her house last weekend.

“Welcome to my backyard,” she shouted over the sound of choppers. “This is my Saturday and Sunday.”

Noyac resident Gene Polito, on the other hand, questioned the accuracy of the environmental report.

“Apparently, the report you put together is flawed from top to bottom,” he said, adding “noise pollution is environmental. Air pollution is environmental. Everything related to the airport is environmental.”

Jeff Bragman of East Hampton, who called the control tower “a sales pitch by the airport lobby,” lambasted the fact that the hearing was moderated by “a couple of suits from Hauppauge.”

“This hearing is everything about why we need local control instead of FAA control,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience.

But Gerard Boles of East Hampton, an aircraft owner and president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, offered a different perspective.

“With the amount of traffic that we have in the summertime, the control tower proves to be beneficial,” he said.

While he said it was “not a panacea, it is not the solution,” he believed that “all in all, a control tower is positive, even for noise abatement.”

A draft of the environmental assessment is available on the Town of East Hampton’s website, www.town.east-hampton.ny.us. The airport will continue to accept written comments on the subject until 5 p.m. on May 13.