By Mara Certic
Airport noise continues to disrupt residents of the East End, causing concern at the East Hampton Town Board as the busy summer season officially kicked off this Independence Day weekend.
“The horizon is littered with airplanes,” Sag Harbor resident Patricia Currie told the board on Thursday, July 3. “No peace can be found; not for man, woman or critter of any kind.”
Ms. Currie said that it was virtually impossible to enjoy peaceful recreational activities in the area anymore, adding that although helicopters are the main problem “large jets run a close second. They have been permitted at any hour.”
Ms. Currie implored the board to set in place restrictions on the types of aircraft that can use the airport and impose strict curfews. “You have the power to end the insanity,” she said. “I beg you, do not wait one day longer.”
Real Estate Agent Tom MacNiven started by complimenting the board for its work on the airport thus far. “You’re really demystifying the airport,” he said “You’re doing what the two previous administrations had ignored.”
He then, however, went on to discuss the adverse economic effects that the airport has been having in the area. Entire parts of town, he explained, have been stigmatized right now due to the incessant aircraft noise overhead. He believes this to be the reason why such a large number of available houses went unrented this summer. “What is the effect of this on my real estate?”
He said that 20 years ago the busiest day at the airport was the airport open house.
Wainscott resident Barry Raebeck also looked to the past when he addressed the board on Thursday.
Some 20 years ago, he said, the FAA qualified the East Hampton Airport as a municipal airport. Now it is a regional airport. “It has before our very eyes morphed into a monstrosity,” he said. “Will it next be a metropolitan airport?”
Helicopters fly over his Wainscott house every “three to five minutes for hours,” he said. “That’s not what we signed up for.”
He asked the board to revert the airport to what it started out as, a “local, recreational non-commercial facility,” or he said, “Close it.” Barry Raebeck is the father of Sag Harbor Express reporter Tessa Raebeck.
Tom Ogden seconded his sentiments: “The airport was a part of the fabric of the environment, but it’s become a severe problem,” he said. “Bring it back to what it was, an airport that was part of everything we love.”
Kathy Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition used the date of the meeting to her advantage and, after expressing preemptive apologies to Thomas Jefferson, read the Quiet Sky Coalition’s “Declaration of Independence from the Torment of Unlimited Aircraft Noise.”
Her letter began as one might expect: “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with some unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“Which can only be achieved,” it continued, “by substantial relief of the scourge that is aircraft noise.”
“In every stage of these oppressions we, the noise-affected, have petitioned for address in most humble terms. Even now while proper address is being sought by this town board, we continue to suffer the burdens of unlimited aircraft noise.”
The “declaration” went on to appeal to the board to remedy their suffering and restore the peace. “These are our skies, this is our town, this is our airport.”
Most of the residents who spoke thanked the board for its efforts. One woman who lives in the Village of East Hampton even went as far to say that she was “encouraged that maybe something could be done.” She did, however, go on to say that one helicopter was flying so low overhead the previous Friday that she “could almost say hello to the pilot.”
Ms. Currie thanked the board for “restoring dignity and respect to the podium.”
“Thank you for choosing to buy more land for preservation,” she said. The Community Preservation Fund Financial report was presented in a work session meeting on Tuesday, July 1. CPF revenues, the report stated, were on the upswing and the fund is predicted to have approximately $40 million by the end of 2014.
No fewer than four CPF acquisitions were subject to public hearing in Thursday’s meeting alone, including an 18-acre area in the Northwest Woods owned by the heirs of Mary Whelan.