Tag Archive | "Quiet Skies Coalition"

Elected Officials To Pressure East Hampton Town on Ending Helicopter Crisis

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Heller_Noyac CC Aircraft Noise Meeting 8-12-14_0775_LR

Congressman Tim Bishop answered questions about helicopter noise at a very well-attended meeting of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday, August 12. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

It was a full house at the Noyac Civic Council’s August meeting on Tuesday, as residents from all over the East End perched on desks and hovered outside open doors to hear Congressman Tim Bishop and other elected officials address the ongoing issue of helicopter noise at the East Hampton Airport.

Residents from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, North Haven, Noyac and Mattituck gathered at the Bridgehampton Community House on Tuesday, August 12 and expressed their frustration with the seemingly endless helicopter traffic that continues to plague eastern Long Island.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, played a recording of helicopter noise taken at her house to the FAA representatives who had come to answer questions and listen to grievances at Tuesday’s meeting. “This is what it’s like when you’re having company, or having a birthday party,” she said over the sound of whirring blades and engines.

Ms. Loreto complained about the “B-team” of FAA representatives who had been sent to the meeting, asked where FAA administrator Michael Huerta was, and accused them of being mute.

FAA representatives responded that Mr. Huerta was in Washington D.C. and that they would report back to him. “A lot of what we’re doing is listening to what your concerns are,” said Mark Guiod of NY TRACON. He was the only FAA official to express sympathy to the crowd and said, “what you’re experiencing just shouldn’t happen.”

“The issue we’re going to focus on is what’s in the best interest of the people that we represent,” Congressman Bishop said on Tuesday. He added that he has reached out to the senior leadership of the FAA inviting them to a meeting with Senator Charles Schumer and supervisors from the five East End towns. “We hope to have that meeting in the next week to 10 days,” he said.

Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Doherty announced loudly, “Shelter Island cannot take it anymore.” The island recently banned the taking off or landing of any helicopters other than emergency services. “What has been our reward?” he asked. “We’ve become a dustbin.”

“We’re fed up and we’re with you all the way,” he said to the crowd.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. encouraged the masses.  “Our goal is to get the federal government to act as soon as possible,” he said, adding that they need to identify exactly what changes need to be made. “It’s not good enough to rearrange the furniture on the Titanic,” he said to great applause.

There was much discussion and some confusion throughout the meeting of the various helicopter routes, but it became apparent that no new route could provide a satisfactory result. Wainscott resident Barry Raebeck said, “Shifting helicopter routes does not solve the problem of noise and pollution. It does not even lessen the problem. It simply shifts the problem to other people. There is no such thing as an all-water route to a land-locked airport.”

The way to solve the problem, he said, “is to eliminate commercial operations at East Hampton Airport.”

Kathy Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and countless other speakers, implored the citizens of neighboring towns to attend the next East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 21. “They need to see this support,” she said.

When asked what chance the East Hampton Town Board had of imposing regulations on the airport, Congressman Bishop directed that question to the amassed FAA representatives. Mary McCarthy from the FAA answered that until the grant assurances expire on December 31, 2014, the town board would not be able to restrict the use of the airport except for safety reasons.

After that point, however, if the town board decided not to take anymore FAA money, the airport would be able to impose flight restrictions. Frank Dalene, who serves on the airport subcommittee of the town’s finance advisory committee, said they have found that if helicopter traffic were eliminated from the airport, it would still be able to support itself without the help of FAA money.

“The decision maker on January 1, 2015 will be the town board,” he said. He added that East Hampton lawmakers needed to know there are people who would support new regulations.

All those who spoke about the East Hampton Town Board mentioned the encouraging changes that they have seen in the new administration, including North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander. The next step, he said, is to get the board to regain control of the airport from the FAA.

“But I think there’s a much larger problem here. I’ve seen letters from the other side, and I’ve seen the distribution of those other letters,” he said, adding that every billionaire on the East End is on that distribution list, and that an expensive lawsuit will ensue.

“This is a regional problem. We’ve got to make it a regional fight,” he said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at this point announced that the board was planning to have a special meeting on Thursday, July 14 to pass a memorializing resolution that would support East Hampton in a decision to refuse money from the FAA. She added they are encouraged by the change in town board, and addressed the representatives of the FAA, “We should not have to worry about getting sued for making decisions that should be happening on your level,” she said.

When asked if they would support the East Hampton Town Board if they were to make this decision, both Congressman Bishop and Assemblyman Thiele said that they would support whatever decision the town makes.

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow, and I think that’s what it’s about here tonight,” Mr. Thiele said.

Editor’s note: Barry Raebeck is the father of Sag Harbor Express reporter Tessa Raebeck.

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.

Public Hearing for Increasing Fees at East Hampton Airport this Thursday

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On Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. the East Hampton Town Board will host a public hearing on raising landing fees at the East Hampton Airport.

Last week, airport manager Jim Brundige presented a plan to raise landing fees beginning this season. Under his plan, landing fees for single engine aircraft would be raised from $7 to $10 while some helicopters would see an increase in fees from $350 to $500.

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



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.”

Barry Raebeck

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web Barry Raebeck

The Southampton High School teacher, Wainscott resident and co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition talks about how the growth of the East Hampton Airport poses an environmental danger, destroys quality of life and why it is critical East Hampton take back control of its airport from the Federal Aviation Administration.


How did the Quiet Skies Coalition evolve from a group of concerned residents into a large not-for-profit reaching hundreds on the South Fork?


It was really an effort to bring together some of the key people who over the years have been dealing directly with the issues at the airport in an attempt to unify everyone. It evolved from the roots of a lot of other efforts. I was the new kid on the block, in terms of dealing directly with these issues, but a group of us had a conversation, saw there was interest and need for a group like this to form and reconstitute the effort. I think what galvanized us is the obvious fact that traffic at the airport over the last couple of summers has gotten marketedly worse.


As you mentioned, for many years now residents in East Hampton and Southampton have complained about the impact the airport has had on their lives and have organized to have their voices heard. What makes the Quiet Skies Coalition different from previous efforts?


I think we are trying to cast this as more than just a noise issue, and an issue that affects people outside of close proximity to the airport. I see this as the seminal environmental issue of this era and I come from a long line of environmentalists. My parents, Audrey and Charles Raebeck, were some of the founders of the Group for the South Fork in the 1970s. Everything was for sale, up for development, and people like them, and me, got directly involved and said this is not what we want, this is not the East End, and we don’t want to lose what makes this place so special.

What we are asking now is, who decided to make the East Hampton Airport — which was designed and had always been a small recreational airport — into a commercial hub? And how dare they. It is in direct violation of the town’s comprehensive plan. No environmental review of the airport has been done, no one is monitoring emissions, the impact on groundwater, whether or not there have been spills.

The argument that we want to close the airport is not true — no one has ever said that. What we are saying is we want to return the airport to normal use, unless we as a town decide we want a major heliport.


What has been your personal experience with the airport?

I first came here in 1957, left in the 1970s and came back in 1994 looking for a place to build a house. We came back with three young daughters and worked with a local realtor, Bob Casper, who found us this great spot. I said to him, “But this is on the airport road” and he said, “You will see, the airport has no impact and you are not on the flight path.” And he was right, for 16 years. Three things have happened since then. First, two summers ago they moved the helicopter flight path directly over our house. The helicopters were coming in over the power lines, but there got to be so many of them, they had to bring them in another way. First they brought them in over Northwest Harbor, but the Northwest Alliance began to complain so they shifted that route west. There are days in the summer where they are coming over our house every two minutes for hours, and I live miles from the airport.

The other issue is the seaplanes, which is a new development. At times they come literally 200-feet over my house. Before this summer, no airplane had ever flown over our house before except for maybe a single engine plane. There we were, having dinner on our porch and a seaplane came sailing in, just above our treetops. It was scary. We are seeing jets now too.

My house was not impacted at all until two years ago and now, I might as well be living in Rosedale, Queens which is right next to JFK airport.


Outside of your personal concerns, what are some of the other concerns of the Quiet Skies Coalition?

My biggest concern, and it is not at all personal, is the solution they have come up with which will fly helicopters over Georgica Pond. The town has said this will “spread it around,” but it will impact a lot more people negatively. As the airport continues to expand — it’s the new thing for New York City big shots to take a chopper or seaplane out here, sometimes an aircraft carrying one person — what we will see as the use of the airport increases is routes spread across the region. There is no telling what kind of impact that will have on people in all parts of the town, as well as people who live in Southampton, Noyac and even the North Fork.

Another concern, which no one seems to want to address including many of our local environmental groups like Group for the East End, is the environmental impact of the airport. Aircraft are huge polluters in an age where we are talking about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. There are reams of data out there about how the jet fuel emissions deplete the ozone layer and how they can pollute our area. Obviously noise is an issue, but it isn’t the only kind of pollution being generated at the airport.

We have seen the new airport layout plan, which has already been given preliminary approval from the FAA, and it includes expanded taxiways, new buildings, an expanded perimeter, changes in the road. It is a very dramatic expansion of the airport that includes repaving a runway that has fallen into disrepair and making it usable. It will allow, as will the trailer they are bringing in — it is being called a control tower, but it is a trailer — traffic to increase at the airport.


What is behind this need to expand, in your view?

The real issue here, as far as I can tell, is people who use the airport on a regular basis or make money off the airport want to have improvements made at the airport without having to pay for it. If they had to float a $4.6 million bond for the airport, everyone would know exactly what we are talking about, so instead they take FAA money. Our feeling is that should not be necessary because they already have $1.5 million in airport reserves.


On Thursday night, the town will host a public hearing on whether or not it should take more funding from the FAA, a move criticized by your organization. If the town does not take FAA money, what do you believe the town will be able to control at the airport come 2014 when some of East Hampton’s grant assurances with the FAA expire?

This is based on legal and municipal precedents from all over the country. One, the town would be able to set a curfew at the airport. They would also be able to regulate what types of aircraft can come into the airport. For example, helicopters are considered a type two aircraft. The town could decide not to allow type two aircraft to land at the airport. I am not sure why the local pilots would be against that. The helicopters are dangerous and in their way. So we can ban helicopters, we can set a curfew and we can also limit the number of aircraft that land at the airport in a day, a week, a year. The town could also be more radical with fines for aircraft coming in at low altitudes. These are big controls we could have in place. If we have the FAA out of here, the town can sit down, ask residents what we want for our airport, but the way things are now, it is a free for all.

Look, some people on our side of this issue have devoted literally 15 years of their lives to this and they have no other motive other than peace of mind. This is costing us a lot of time, and a lot of money. Think about who has the incentive here and who is working for the public good — commercial interests or the Quiet Skies Coalition. We are the ones wearing the white hats here.


For more information on the Quiet Skies Coalition visit http://quietskiescoalition.org. The East Hampton Town Board’s public hearing on whether or not to take funding from the FAA for the construction of a deer fence will take place on Thursday, December 1 at 7 p.m. in town hall.

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.