Tag Archive | "east hampton airport"

Looking at the Impact of Airport Noise

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By Amanda Wyatt

To keep the East End peaceful and quiet, you’ve sometimes got to make a little noise.

At least, that’s according to approximately 40 concerned citizens who attended a forum on aircraft noise held by the Village Preservation Society (VPS) of East Hampton on August 9. The group gathered at the Emergency Services Building in East Hampton to hear from a panel of experts, as well as to voice their own concerns about the growing increase in noise generated by air traffic into the East Hampton Airport.

Theresa K. Quigley, Deputy Supervisor of East Hampton, Bob DeLuca, President of the Group for the East End, Dr. Bonnie Schnitta, President of SoundSense, and planning consultant Peter Wolf all served on the panel to address these concerns.

“Our community is a resort community,” said Quigley at the meeting. “People come here for the peace and tranquility, and the airport, we recognize, interferes with that quiet.”

Panel members noted that in recent years, the growth in the local population has triggered an increase in air traffic. This summer, many East End residents — including those in Sag Harbor, Noyac and North Haven — have been particularly vexed by noise from aircrafts.

Panel members also mentioned that 80 percent of flights come in and out of the airport between Friday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. — exactly when residents and vacationers alike want to relax.

With the exception of a few aircrafts, like emergency airlifts to hospitals, Wolf said, “these planes do not perform any economic function that’s valuable to the town, and they have no real enduring social quality to them.”

Wolf claimed “under one-percent of our community has any use for the airplanes.”

“This is a nuisance, and it should be regulated as a nuisance,” he added.

Wolf suggested a number of tactics for reducing the noise, including reserving airspace, charging higher fees and taking other legal measures to cut back on air traffic.

Dr. Schnitta, whose company specializes in acoustic engineering and design, spoke about the effects of noise on human health. She was particularly concerned about how intermittent noise at night could cause disturbances in sleep.

“Indeed, if it is disturbing to sleep at nighttime, it will cause health problems,” Schnitta said in a separate interview. “We have to protect people when they sleep at night.”

Even if people do not notice noise at night, explained Schnitta, noise can still reduce the quality of sleep, leading to fatigue and poor concentration over time. What’s more, poor sleep is associated with a host of medical woes, including cardiac and intestinal problems.

Although DeLuca, an environmental expert, did not speak about the environmental aspects of noise at the forum, he did mention in an interview that noise can sometimes be disturbing to wildlife. Furthermore, he said that many toxins that come from planes contribute to the quality of air here, which is reportedly somewhat poor to begin with.

“Ongoing management of airports is always a risk with respect to jet fuel, aviation gas and lubricants,” he noted.

At the forum, DeLuca discussed his experience in forming the Community Advisory Board at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

“There might be a road home here which starts with organizing a new committee to look at the future of East Hampton Airport, getting the issues on the table and trying to get those issues before the [East Hampton Town] Board in an organized way,” he said.

However, no decision has been made about the possibility of forming such a coalition, or any other measures. As Kathleen Cunningham, the executive director of VPS and a chairperson of the Quiet Skies Coalition, noted, this was a starting place for further discussions about aircraft noise.

“It’s really the first sign of something concrete in years,” Cunningham said.

 

Another topic addressed at the meeting was the collection of data on airport noise. This month, the East Hampton Town Board approved a resolution from Quigley to retain an outside company to analyze data taken between June and September.

“In order to get the approval to restrict helicopters, we first have to prove to the FAA that there is an issue that needs addressing,” said Quigley in a separate interview.

Because the airport receives funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the town is not able to restrict airport traffic on its own. Based on the data, the consulting firm hired by the town will determine what restrictions are justified.

For example, Quigley said that the town has voluntary curfews at night for aircrafts. However, until the data is analyzed, the town does not have the authority to make these curfews mandatory.

Still, Quigley said the town is committed to reducing aircraft noise.

“Absolutely, the town has an obligation to deal with this issue, and figure out how they can lessen the burden and make it better for the citizenry,” she said.

Noise Debate Surrounding Airport Continues; North Haven Village Re-enters Discussion

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North Haven resident Bill Brauninger no longer keeps track of the helicopters that fly over his home for now it is the moments of quiet that are exceptions. Air traffic flying to the East Hampton Airport is so prevalent it is virtually constant.

“My patience has run out,” said an exasperated Brauninger at Tuesday night’s North Haven Village Board meeting.

Brauninger is not alone.

While Tuesday night’s meeting was largely centered around a discussion about tick abatement, many residents who crowded North Haven Village Hall joined Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC) members Bob Wolfram and Patricia Currie in a discussion about the noise impact the airport has had on residents in Southampton Town, particularly in North Haven, Noyac and Sag Harbor, portions of which are directly on helicopter flight paths to the airport.

Wolfram, a Sag Harbor resident, said that recently North Haven residents may have been given a break from some of the air traffic traditionally seen over the village. He charged that during a visit to the East Hampton Airport’s air traffic control tower in July – a visit he and Currie were encouraged to make by the town’s newly appointed air traffic control officers – he was told by the controllers that one of the two northern helicopter routes was eliminated by East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione.

According to Wolfram and Currie, a Noyac resident, the air traffic controllers said Stanzione told them to stop bringing in helicopters to the airport on a northern route that flies over Northwest Creek in East Hampton, but have all the helicopter traffic take the departing route aiming towards Jessup’s Neck in Noyac. That would direct almost all helicopter traffic over Southampton Town.

Wolfram and Currie said they were also surprised to learn the air traffic controllers were not given radar, but binoculars, to direct traffic in and out of the airport.

During an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 2, Councilman Stanzione denied ordering the Northwest Creek route closed to air traffic, stating while it had changed it was not at his order, but rather a decision made by airport officials.

According to data provided by PlaneNoise, a firm the town has hired to analyze noise complaints made to the town’s noise complaint hotline, 114 distinct households outside of East Hampton Town filed 1,498 complaints about noise from the airport in July. Sag Harbor represented the most complaints with 52 distinct households logging 1,120 complaints with the hotline, according to a report released this week by PlaneNoise.

According to the report, one Sag Harbor resident filed 561 complaints – the most by any one individual. The second highest number of complaints also came from a Sag Harbor resident, who filed 188 complaints in July.

According to PlaneNoise, the top 10 complainants – a majority from Sag Harbor – filed 77-percent of the complaints made to the airport hot line last month.

In East Hampton, 48 distinct homes filed 445 complaints with the noise hotline (537-LOUD). Residents from 33 households filed 353 complaints, with most of the complaints coming from residents who do not live in Wainscott or on the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, but from other areas within the town.

Unlike in the report detailing complaints outside of East Hampton Town, where 69 percent of the complaints were about helicopters, in East Hampton Town jets earned the highest number of complaints in July.

Last Thursday, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley sponsored two resolutions related to the airport, one specifically authorizing the town to send the PlaneNoise data to an outside consultant to recommend to the town board whether that information would justify the town considering a restriction of any kind on helicopter traffic.

The other resolution addresses airport security, specifically the installation of a perimeter security fence and making access to the airport allowable only through the terminal building.

Both resolutions passed by the Republican majority, with Democrats Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby voting against the measures.

During Tuesday night’s North Haven meeting, Currie said she was concerned about the second resolution since it could mean the town will seek more Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding than it originally sought for a deer fence late last year. QSC members contend that if the town abstains from taking FAA funding in 2014 it could potentially restrict certain aircraft like helicopters from flying into the airport or at least impose a curfew.

Wolfram said it was also incumbent on residents to use the noise complaint hotline. Otherwise, he said, the data will show only a few members of the community around the airport are really affected by noise.

North Haven trustee Jeff Sander said he “100-percent” supported any efforts made to reduce airport noise and limit expansion of the airport.

“I think this board would be happy to write letters to East Hampton and Southampton towns,” agreed trustee Diane Skilbred.

“This village has expressed concern and dissatisfaction at a public hearing about noise abatement and ingress and egress to the airport a couple of years ago,” said Mayor Laura Nolan. “I would be happy to update that letter to the East Hampton Town Board.”

In other airport related news, the Village Preservation Society of East Hampton will host an informational forum on aircraft noise at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street in East Hampton on Thursday, August 9 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. discussing the impacts of aircraft noise on human health and other relevant topics.

 

State Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Airport Master Plan

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East Hampton Town’s Airport Master Plan has been upheld by the New York State Supreme Court, which dismissed a suit brought by a group of neighbors who alleged the plan did little to address airport noise when it was revised along with the airport layout plan in 2010.
In a press release issued last week by the East Hampton Aviation Association, last Thursday the Wainscott based group praised the court, calling this “a landmark decision.”
According to the Aviation Association, the court’s 11-page decision upholding the master plan and the airport layout plan will allow the town to move forward with the repairs at the airport to upgrade the facility without expansion.
“The Airport Master Plan and Layout Plan are not in full force and effect,” said Tom Twomey, director of the East Hampton Aviation Association and a voluntary member of its legal committee. “It is the law in East Hampton. It provides for the repair of the runway. Now, we urge the town to proceed with the repair of the runway without further delay.”
Runway 4-22 has been in need of repair since 1989. Pilots have long complained that the short runway is critical for small planes to make safe landings.
“We congratulate the town on this final vindication of the town’s 20 year effort to increase safety and reduce noise at the East Hampton Airport,” said Margie Saurenman, the association’s vice president.
The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion along with a handful of residents filed suit over the master plan in November 2010, just two months after the plan was adopted by the town board. The suit contended the town did not study noise comprehensively in its environmental review of the master plan, that it used standards that could not adequately assess noise and failed to take into account the literal thousands of noise complaints logged with the town.
On Tuesday, East Hampton attorney Jeffrey Bragman, who represents the plaintiffs, said the group was assessing its options, but that it was likely an appeal would be filed.
“We remain concerned about the fact that the town deliberately selected a noise standard that when you plug in the numbers shows no noise expect within the boundaries of the airport,” said Bragman. “The town’s own expert has said if you only used that standard it would produce irrational results.”
In other airport news, the East Hampton Aviation Association released another statement showing the results of its poll of town residents on whether or not the current town board should accept funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Critics — particularly members of the Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC) — have argued that if the town board does take more FAA funding it will lose the right to have real control over the airport. In 2014, when some of the FAA grant assurances expire, QSC members have argued the town could impose curfews or limit certain kinds of aircrafts in an effort to reduce noise at the airport that has plagued residents of both East Hampton and Southampton for the last decade.
According to the East Hampton Aviation Association, 300 people were polled by the Potholm Group of Maine in April with 88 percent stating they believed the town should take FAA funding to repair runways and taxiways with 77 percent stating they would like to see the funding used for noise abatement.

Letters to the Editor 7/5/12

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Bring Out the Best


Dear Bryan,

We would like to express our gratitude to the generous people of Sag Harbor and neighboring towns. We held a car wash and bake sale at the Sag Harbor Elementary School on June 16th. Our goal was to raise enough money to buy a bench in town in memory of our classmate and friend, Katy Stewart. Due to the kindness of our community we exceeded our goal. Our customers waited patiently in line to get their cars washed and buy baked goods. The class is proud of our accomplishment, and we can’t wait to sit on the bench, watch a pink sunset and think of our friend. We think it is pretty amazing how Katy continues to bring out the best in people!

Sincerely,

Hannah Jungck and the Pierson Class of 2016

PS  Katy’s family has set up a fund in Katy’s memory that supports education, childhood bereavement, and pediatric cancer research.  For more information please go to www.katyscourage.org.


Laments CPR Bill’s Non-Passage


Dear Editor

It is difficult to express my disappointment that the Assembly did not pass our CPR in Schools bill (S2491/A3980) to ensure that all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. In August of 2006, my 14-year-old daughter, Leah, went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest while trying out for the volleyball team at Bethpage High School. Thankfully, Leah’s life was saved by her coach. However, to think that her fellow teammates could have saved her life as well after a short CPR lesson is empowering.

I am truly thankful to my representative, Senator Kemp Hannon for sponsoring and helping champion the passage of the CPR in Schools legislation in the Senate. He is well aware how important this bill is to saving lives.

Today, far too many people die suddenly from cardiac arrest. If no CPR is provided or no defibrillation occurs within 3 to 5 minutes of collapse the chance of survival drops significantly. With the passage of this bill, every high school graduate will be prepared to save lives in their own homes and communities. With hands-only CPR, it is now even easier to teach this lifesaving skill. In less than the time it takes to watch a 30 minute TV episode, we can give students the skills they need to help save a life.

Please think of Leah this August 31st who will be celebrating her “6th re-birthday” as a college senior at Fordham University. Encourage your state representatives to pass this bill in the next session.

Claudia Olverd

Plainview


July Fourth


Dear Editor,

July Fourth is the day we set forth to declare our independence. We were young and free, a brand new country which had no equal. We had Uncle Sam. He was our man. He swore he would never let us down.

We were full of life and vigor, until someone pulled the trigger. We joined the fight. We thought we were right to fight with all our might till Johnnie came marching home. They shot him and gassed him. They thought they’d outlast him, but Johnnie kept marching on.

He marched through the fields and climbed the highest mountains.

He marched till he could stand it no more. And so the war ends, he’s lost all his friends.

But Johnnie comes marching home.

Richard Sawyer

Sag Harbor


Folly at the Airport


To the Editor:

Residents in the airport noise affected community who believed airport management and Town Board rhetoric that the seasonal control tower would proactively address noise abatement protocols must abandon that hope.

At the information session held by the air traffic controllers, Councilman Stanzione, Jim Brundige and EH Aviation Association leadership this past Saturday to familiarize pilots with required tower protocols, it was clearly and unequivocally stated that the control tower would not address noise issues. All the bluster about how the control tower would mitigate noise at the airport was distinctly and completely put to rest.

Some representatives from the Quiet Skies Coalition went to listen and learn. And we got quite a lesson.  Interestingly, the only noise abatement questions fielded from the audience came from some local pilots genuinely inquiring how the tower procedures would dovetail with noise abatement procedures.  The answer, over and over, was clear – this “is not about noise”.

QSC never had much faith that the control tower would provide measurable noise abatement, but would spread the nuisance to more neighborhoods, rather than reducing noise by limiting flights.  Another theory held that controllers would influence altitudes, another demonstrated noise mitigation tool – the higher the craft, the less noise on the ground. This notion was also dispelled at Saturday’s meeting. The controllers said they will not dictate altitudes.

This meeting clearly demonstrated the disingenuous treatment of the noise affected by the Town Board and most particularly, Councilman Stanzione, whose lip service to the noise affected and many statements declaring the control tower as the best hope, have now been completely refuted.

As a safety improvement, the tower adds value. As a noise abatement tool, it is simply folly.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Cunningham

Quiet Skies Coalition

East Hampton


Questioning Tower’s Purpose


Dear Editor

The “Million Dollar Seasonal Control Tower” became operational at East Hampton airport on Friday, June 29th, and noise-weary residents across the East End looked forward to the promised relief from the non-stop aerial barrage over our homes; that never happened. On Saturday, during an information meeting held at EH airport, the audience learned why.

At the beginning of the meeting, EH Councilman Stanzione expounded at length on difficulties he’d encountered in bringing the new control tower to EHA, and called the tower opening an “historic” event; in the annals of environmental misdeeds it will be, as it will bring increasing commuter air traffic and pollution to our area. On Saturday, Councilman Stanzione failed to mention that earlier claims by EH town officials, airport management and aviation proponents — claims that the airport’s control tower would bring about noise abatement — were not part of the agenda for control tower operators. He did clearly state that noise abatement was not a tower controller issue. Minutes later, Charles Carpenter, spokesman for Robinson Aviation, the control tower operators, said the tower’s purpose is solely safety and efficiency, not noise abatement. An FAA representative nodded his assent to Carpenter’s statement and the leadership of the East Hampton Aviation Assoc (EHAA) smirked.

Readers may recall having seen in East Hampton and Southampton media a number of costly newspaper ads paid for by EHAA, prior to last November’s EH Town Board election. Some ads appeared in the form of 10 questions and answers including: YES, a control tower would alleviate neighborhood noise, not only in East Hampton but over a 10-mile wide, half-mile high airspace surrounding the airport. Residents on the twin forks therefore harbored hope that aircraft noise reduction would follow after the installation of the tower. The EHAA ads also contended that rejecting FAA funds would give EH town “local” control over operations at the airport; both statements are misleading, at best, given the official statements made on Saturday about the scope of operations the tower can control.

The official statements made at the airport this past weekend give rise to immediate questions: Was EHAA ignorant of the facts? Were they “re-educated” by their own high-cost advertising; were they merely duped by EH town officials and airport management? Or did they deliberately misinform the public to help re-elect EH town board members known to support aviation interests and vehemently favor increased airport operations?

The disinformation campaign being waged by EH airport expansionists will continue unabated, but it will merely be a matter of time until the many “facts” circulated by them and EH town and airport management will be exposed as disingenuous. This past weekend and the coming weekend’s 4th July celebrations did and will take place under the usual aerial assault that elected officials at local, state and federal levels have been unable or unwilling to prevent. Area residents daily impacted by noise and air pollution from EH airport deserve better representation from elected officials.

Patricia Currie

Sag Harbor



East Hampton Approves Seasonal Control Tower

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At an East Hampton Town Board meeting last Thursday, April 5 board members unanimously approved a resolution for the construction of a portable control tower for the East Hampton Airport.

The cost of the project, estimated to be about $360,000, would be paid for by the appropriate airport budget account.  In other words, funds generated by the airport, which by law must be used for the airport, according to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione.

The seasonal control tower is a type II action, which means the board didn’t formally have to seek a SEQRA report before approving construction. However, due to the importance of the subject matter, Stanzione requested an environmental review, prepared by the town, which he presented at a work session last week.

He said in an interview this week that he hoped the tower—which would only take about one month to construct—would be up and running by the beginning of the summer season, May 31.

The control tower would be staffed by an air-traffic controller provided by Robinson Aviation out of New Haven, CT, a company which, Stanzione pointed out, is approved by the FAA.

For Stanzione, the control tower is an important step toward decreasing the amount of noise produced by aircraft flying into the East Hampton Airport in Wainscott.

Most of the noise, he said at last week’s work session, “is caused by 10 percent of the users of the airport, who don’t observe our voluntary regulations.”

These regulations include restricting flight times between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., as well as making sure all aircraft maintains an altitude of 2,500 feet for as long as possible before touching down in East Hampton.

Stanzione said the control tower would help achieve higher levels of compliance among all aircrafts. With the control tower, he argued, the town would go “from an already outstanding 90 percent compliance—thanks to airport management—to an outstanding 100 percent using the federal regulations of the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].”

While Quiet Skies Coalition member Kathy Cunningham said she supported the idea of installing a control tower in East Hampton, she’s still on the fence about whether or not the move will successfully limit noise.

“We’ve never been against the control tower in theory,” she said on behalf of the Quiet Skies Coalition at a work session last Tuesday, April 10. “We just don’t know what it will do.”

The Quiet Skies Coalition is a group of concerned residents from across the East End, which formed last summer in opposition to the town accepting money from the FAA.  While the town’s FAA contract will expire in 2014, should it accept more FAA funding before then, that partnership would extend at least into 2020.

The Quiet Skies Coalition feels East Hampton Town would be able to better regulate aircrafts with it’s own rules and regulations, without adhering to what the FAA deems permissible.

Simply put, she continued, “It’s untested. To be fair, you don’t really know what the results [of implementing a seasonal control tower] are going to be,” she added. “After this summer we’ll know.”

Airport Tower Moves Forward

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By Kathryn G. Menu


In an effort to reduce noise and increase safety, East Hampton Town is moving forward with plans to install a seasonal air traffic control tower at East Hampton Airport this summer.

However, while the town is making headway in that arena, a debate over whether or not it should continue to accept Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant monies came to a head last week. That’s because the town board stalled in passing a resolution to allow it to seek three new grants from the FAA for capital improvements.

During a town board work session on Tuesday, March 20 the generally united Republican majority on the board failed to come together to pass a resolution proposed by airport liaison, Councilman Dominick Stanzione.

Stanzione hoped to gain approval to apply for new grant applications to the FAA to repair the closed 4-22 runway, for the construction of a perimeter deer fence and for capital improvements at the airport. But he failed to gain the support of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley.

Supervisor Wilkinson said he would like to consult with the town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, in light of a memo from the FAA to Congressman Tim Bishop. The memo outlined the ability of the town to impose restrictions at the airport once some of its existing grant contracts with the FAA expire in 2014.

Democratic town board members, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, have long supported stalling any new FAA grants while the effectiveness of the control tower and other noise abatement programs are assessed.

Stanzione, who has been working with Kirsch and the FAA to create a noise abatement plan, was able to secure approval to contract with three different firms that will assess the airport in different ways.

According to Stanzione, the town board has agreed to contract with Plane Noise and AirScene, companies that will monitor noise complaints and correspond those with arriving and departing aircrafts to compile data on noise stemming from the airport.

Vector Solutions was also hired by the board to create an automated billing system for airport users, which will not only create a more professional cash management system, said Stanzione, but will enable the town to track airport use.

Lastly, the town also agreed to hire Robinson Aviation to operate the seasonal control tower at East Hampton Airport at a cost of $342,600 a year.

The air traffic control tower still needs FAA approval, noted Stanzione. However, earlier this month, the agency took a step towards that reality when it published a formal notice in the Federal Register regarding the re-designation of the airport.

According to the notice, in the summer season the East Hampton Airport would be designated a Class D Airport. That will create a more restrictive airspace in a five-mile radius around the airport and require a minimum altitude of 2,500-feet for aircraft.

The airport would revert back to a Class E designation during the off-season. Comments on the FAA’s proposal are being accepted through this Friday, April 30.

“The control tower is about addressing safety and noise,” said Stanzione. “Traffic creates noise and if we can manage the altitudes of aircraft using the airport it is expected this will have a significant impact in terms of noise mitigation.”

In terms of whether or not to accept FAA funding for capital improvements, Stanzione said he remains persuaded that the town can continue to accept funding and still have control.

“Mainly, I support our FAA policy of pursuing grant funding while implementing a 43-point noise mitigation plan that down the line includes airport restrictions, but provides for the safest, most financially feasible and quickest path to providing for local control over the airport,” said Stanzione.

Members of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion and the Quiet Skies Coalition have urged the current town board to rescind that resolution. The fear, according to Quiet Skies Coalition chairwoman Kathy Cunningham, is, if the grant goes through, the town will have an additional 20-years before it can place restrictions like curfews or prohibit certain aircraft from landing at the airport.

The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion has filed suit to prevent the town from accepting new funding. Earlier this month, its request for a temporary restraining order was rejected in court for a third time, although an application for a preliminary injunction remains on the table.

On Wednesday, Cunningham said she believes the FAA memo to Bishop demonstrates that the town will be able to enact “reasonable airport regulations” come December 2014 when some grant restrictions expires.

Cunningham noted that creating a noise abatement plan for the airport — termed a “Part 161” — has been upheld in only one community, Naples, Florida, and it was litigated.

“And now we have answers from the FAA,” said Cunningham. “They are saying that in no uncertain terms they will not take action against the town once the grant assurances expire in 2014.”

Cunningham said that state case law backs up that position, pointing to a legal dispute between a helicopter organization and the City of New York, which restricted helicopters and, not being bound by an FAA contract, won the right to keep those restrictions.

“We are not trying to shut down the airport,” Cunningham stressed. “But we have to deal with these very real issues affecting our quality of life.”

Activists Lose First Round Against East Hampton Town Taking FAA Monies

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A group opposed to the growth at East Hampton Airport was unsuccessful in its first bid to stop East Hampton Town officials from obtaining a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant last week.

But attorney Jeffrey Bragman says the fight is far from over.

On Wednesday, December 7 at the New York State Supreme Court building in Riverhead, Justice John J. J. Jones, Jr. rejected Bragman’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the town from taking FAA funding.

Bragman was representing The Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, among other residents, in his attempt to obtain the TRO. The anti-noise and growth activists have argued that by taking FAA grants, the town will be prevented from gaining control over East Hampton Airport and the noise it produces from air traffic streaming in and out of the Wainscott facility, particularly in the summer months.

A day before Bragman sought the restraining order, the East Hampton Town Board unanimously passed a resolution stating it would apply for a grant to the FAA for the engineering of a deer fence around the perimeter of the airport. At the same meeting, town board members and aviation attorney Peter Kirsch vowed to implement aspects of a comprehensive noise abatement plan to deal with noise generated by the airport.

As a result of last week’s ruling, the town can move forward with its grant application, which according to town board member and airport liaison Dominick Stanzione said was filed last Tuesday, shortly after the board made its decision. When the FAA will rule on the town’s request, he said, was unknown.

“I would hope it happens sooner rather than later,” he said.

However, on Monday Bragman said the court’s decision was by no means unusual, pointing to the difficulty gaining a temporary restraining order in the first place. An application for a preliminary injunction to prevent the town from accepting the FAA grant money is still pending, said Bragman. He added that Justice Jones did not base his decisions on the merits, or lack thereof, of the ongoing case between his clients and the town over the environmental review of the town’s Airport Master Plan.

On Monday, Stanzione said he was confident in the town’s ability to win the next leg of the case, and remained focused on the future — a future he said was focused on working closely with the FAA to curtail noise generated by the airport.

“We need to work closely with them in establishing a Class D airspace around the airport,” said Stanzione.

If the airport had Class D airspace surrounding it, an air traffic controller would have control over aircraft up to 2,500-feet above and 10-miles around the airport.

Stanzione said developing and maintaining a strong relationship with the FAA would allow this federal designation to move forward, which coupled with a control tower could give residents some relief when it comes to noise.

“In order to provide immediate relief from helicopter and other aviation noise from this coming season, and it seems to be generally believed the control tower will do that, we need to have cooperation with the FAA,” he said.

Stanzione said he was also working with a regional task force to re-route helicopter traffic to a second southern route over Georgica Pond in East Hampton.

Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney, will work with the town board to present a comprehensive noise abatement plan for the airport that will be presented in the next 60 to 90 days, said Stanzione. The town board will look at everything from the most effective and least expensive ideas to curb airport noise to the most expensive and least effective and evaluate which concepts the town should latch onto after studying that matrix, he said.

However, in the immediate, the town board will continue to seek approval to create Class D airspace around the airport immediately, and hopes to finalize its contract for the creation of the seasonal control tower in the next two weeks. In the next month, Kirsch said the town should hope to secure the next FAA grant, finalize a management program for the control tower and formalize a protocol for collecting and studying noise and safety data from the airport.

The town board will also look to adopt a new policy on the role of the airport in the next month, according to Kirsch’s presentation, and in the next two months will develop a strategy and timetable to implement helicopter restrictions at the airport, although what those restrictions will be remains unknown. According to Kirsch’s report, among the capital projects the town will explore at the airport is the installation of dedicated helipads, meaning it is unlikely plans are in place to ban helicopters altogether.

A nighttime curfew does appear to be on the table, according to Kirsch’s presentation.

The seasonal control tower is expected to be installed as early as March.

“We are being as comprehensive as we can,” said Stanzione. “And as always when I speak about the airport, it is important to acknowledge it contributes to our community and is an important asset to our town.”

Heated Hearing on the Airport

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By Karl Grossman

East Hampton Airport — it’s the biggest noisemaker on eastern Long Island.

It gets the lion’s share of the helicopters that ferry some very privileged people between Manhattan and the Hamptons — flying low and loud over Suffolk County. The machines roar over Brookhaven Town, then western Southampton and Riverhead, then the North and the South Forks and Shelter Island.

The chopper traffic is a relatively new phenomenon that has gotten completely out of hand.

They also fly to and from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton and Southampton Village’s helipad, but the main destination is the East Hampton Airport.

And the East Hampton community — at chopper ground zero — is at a crossroads.

“Our peaceful quality of life is threatened by airport noise,” declared a statement from Joan Osborne, vice president of the East Hampton Village Preservation Society, at a public hearing held by the East Hampton Town Board last week.

The hearing was ostensibly about a new deer fence at the airport. But a far broader issue was involved: whether the town should take money from the Federal Aviation Administration to buy the fence which would kick in continuing FAA authority over the field.

Like many a federal regulatory agency, the FAA is a lapdog, not a watchdog, of what it’s supposed to regulate. It’s in a conflict of interest being a booster of aviation and somehow, at the same time, regulating it. As for aviation noise, it does “a poor job,” says the national Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, and should “turn that responsibility over to the EPA.”

Whether East Hampton should keep accepting money from the FAA and allow the FAA to remain in control of the town-owned airport was a main issue in the recent town election. Organizations including the Quiet Skies Coalition, along with the Democratic candidates for town office, called for East Hampton to cut it off with the FAA and gain control of the field — and then limit the number of airport operations, impose a curfew and exclude aircraft deemed too noisy (spelled: helicopters).

The incumbent Republican Supervisor, Bill Wilkinson, survived by only 15 votes. But from its cocky stance at last Thursday’s hearing, you wouldn’t know the GOP-run board came within a political inch of being upset.

There was an overflow crowd at East Hampton Town Hall and that was expected, but the hearing wasn’t switched to a larger meeting hall as is common when there’s a public meeting on a red-hot controversy in a Long Island town. There was no loudspeaker letting people who couldn’t get into the room and were left standing outside to hear what was happening. And Mr. Wilkinson and allies on the board were especially sensitive when Jeff Bragman, attorney for the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, charged the board sought to rush its decision. He was then emphatically told his time was up although other speakers went past their allotted three minutes without such a fiery reaction.

Before that, Mr. Bragman talked about “the ultra-luxury travelers in helicopters.” The choppers coming into East Hampton “sound like the [helicopter] attack scene in Apocalypse Now.” As to the FAA, “Do you think they care a hoot about controlling noise?”

And he spoke against “just shuffling around” flights by varying routes when, he said, what’s needed is “fundamental change.” The town should stop taking money from the FAA and be able to exercise independent control. “You have the power to do it!”

But a main point of Mr. Bragman — that in 2014 East Hampton’s current obligations to the FAA will expire and the town could control the field — was contested by a town legal consultant. Attorney Peter Hirsch of Denver said “the town is grant-obligated to the FAA” to “2021 or later,” indeed some of the obligations “are permanent” and “never expire.” He claimed federal law pre-empts localities on aviation. And “because of the federal law, the only way” the town could control its field, he said, would be by “closing the airport.”

If that’s the only thing that can be done, it should be: the noisemaker should be shut down. The East Hampton Airport is far from being a public transportation center.  It services a very select few — with much noise. It constitutes, like a raucous racetrack, a public nuisance — and not only for people in East Hampton, but for folks throughout eastern Long Island.


East Hampton Schedules Public Hearing to Take FAA Funding

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Whether or not the Town of East Hampton should accept more funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to pay for improvements at The East Hampton Airport was one of the biggest political issues in an East Hampton Town election that has yet to be decided.

Despite the fact that the town supervisor’s race is still undecided — as is what political party will dominate the East Hampton Town Board — last Thursday the current board passed a resolution to host a public hearing on December 1 on whether or not it should accept more money from the FAA.

Opponents have argued doing so will extend the FAA’s control over the airport and prohibit the town board from controlling issues like curfews past the 2014 date when FAA grant assurances will expire.

On Thursday night, airport liaison and town board member Dominick Stanzione introduced the resolution, which was passed, that allows the public hearing to be held on December 1 at 7 p.m.

According to Stanzione, the town will seek funding from the FAA to update a deer fence at the airport in the wake of an August accident where a small plane collided with three deer at the airport. The incident resulted in no injuries.

Quickly after Thursday night’s town board meeting, the Quiet Skies Coalition — a group of East Hampton and Southampton residents who campaigned heavily to prevent the growth of the airport and assert more local control over the airspace around it — shot out an email to its constituency advising them of the hearing.

“The urgency for a decision on FAA funding is questionable, and the impetus appears to be entirely political, in the event Wilkinson should lose his seat as Supervisor,” the organization’s email alleges. “There is no other urgency to call a public meeting about capital improvements to a fence. There have been only three deer strikes recorded at FAA over the past 10 years, only one of which caused any damage. One can only conclude therefore that this is not about the fence.”

The organization questioned the urgency of the hearing given that the airport boasts a $1.5 million surplus.



Lobby for Skies that are Quiet

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Oct 26, QSC Forum, LTV

By Emily J. Weitz

For the thousands of residents living in the flight path of East Hampton Airport, the sound of a helicopter or jet is a teeth chattering, conversation stopping daily reality. These are people who would not classify airport noise as a nuisance. They would say it drastically compromises their quality of life, pulling them out of bed in the middle of the night and tearing through the peace of a Sunday afternoon.

These are also people who have banded together to create the Quiet Skies Coalition, an effort first and foremost to regain control over what happens at East Hampton Airport.

The Quiet Skies Coalition claim they are not against the airport. The vice chairman of the coalition, Frank Dalene, is a pilot himself who has flown in and out of East Hampton for years. Rather, the coalition members argue that the primary problem is that the town has lost authority on how to handle airport issues.

The group argues that because the town has a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the FAA has certain rules East Hampton must follow. One of these rules, or grant assurances, the coalition notes, states that the town can’t impose a curfew. They say this means that flights can come and go at all hours of the night.

They add that another provision limits the town’s ability to regulate the types of aircraft that comes and go.

“Aircraft are categorized by stages,” explained attorney Sheila Jones at a presentation by the Quiet Skies Coalition last week at LTV Studios in Wainscott. “Most helicopters are Stage 2, and jets might be Stage 2 or 3.”

Though the group suggests the airport might be able to regulate noise and traffic by limiting certain categories of aircraft from coming to East Hampton Airport, attorney David Gruber, a member of the Quiet Skies Coalition, explained in a statement that “The FAA policy grants unrestricted access for all aircraft types 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Jones went on to explain why the FAA gets to make these decisions for an airport owned and operated by a local government. She notes that it’s because the town accepted money from the FAA in the form of grants to make improvements on the airport.

“But the airport doesn’t need money from the FAA,” says Kathy Cunningham, member of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “The airport is collecting $600,000 a year in landing fees alone.”

Members added that fuel charges and storage fees also help the airport generate a strong annual profit. Because of that income, Quiet Skies says the airport should incorporate improvements into its budget instead of asking for more money from the FAA and extending the contracts.

Jones notes that pertinent aspects of this FAA contract, including the ability to regulate types of aircraft and the ability to set up a curfew, are due to expire on December 31, 2014. If they were allowed to expire, and the town chose not to accept any more money from the FAA, Jones explains, the town would be able to make decisions without too much interference from the FAA.

“They’re not just going to disappear,” she warns, “But they wouldn’t have the legal authority that they do when they’re in a contract with the town.”

But the current administration is at odds with this philosophy. The idea that the town needs to stop accepting FAA money to deal with airport noise and traffic concerns is “an expensive proposition,” says Dominick Stanzione, East Hampton Town Councilman. “They [The Quiet Skies Coalition] made a connection between the FAA and the achievement of noise mitigation goals, and it is fallacious.”

Stanzione believes that the town should continue taking FAA funds because it is “the fiscally responsible approach to capital management on behalf of the town.”

While he expresses utmost respect for the Quiet Skies Coalition, he believes that “The legitimate concerns of noise can be addressed through a comprehensive plan within the FAA framework.”

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition disagree.

Jones says that in regards to solving the public’s complaints, until the grant assurances run out, “Our hands are tied.”

Cunningham wonders why the town can’t just allow the grant assurances to run out and then deal with the matters on a local level. Possible solutions offered by the group include imposing a curfew, closing on weekends, excluding particular aircraft types, and restricting the total number of aircraft operations.

She notes these are exactly the limitations that the 34th Street Heliport in Manhattan imposed, and they have been deemed legal by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in our jurisdiction.

“But as long as the airport is accepting money from the FAA,” says Cunningham, “we can’t even try to implement these measures.”

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition add that in the summer months, East Hampton Airport has approximately 400 operations daily, which they say is nearly as many as Long Island MacArthur Airport. According to the Quiet Skies Coalition, though, only about 1 percent of the population of East Hampton benefits from the airport in any way.

Stanzione acknowledges that residents are being negatively impacted, but when it comes to the airport, noted the town intends to work within the bounds of the FAA to appease citizens.

“We believe we should try to minimize the negative effects of aviation while maximizing the benefits,” says Stanzione. “We already have a voluntary curfew between 11 [p.m.] and 7[a.m.], and we have 97 percent compliance with that.”

Stanzione offered additional measures the town may take.

“Maybe people will sell property to the airport,” he says. “We might work with ground operations like landing and fueling practices. There are all kinds of rules that can be pressed for meticulous operation.”

But according to the Quiet Skies Coalition, as long as the FAA is applying its regulations to East Hampton Airport, there will be a disconnect that will keep local residents from finding peace in their own backyards.