Tag Archive | "Quiet Skies Coalition"

FAA Opens the Door for Airport Tower

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Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration accepted East Hampton Town’s Airport Layout Plan (ALP), paving the way for town officials to pursue the installation of a seasonal air traffic control tower, which East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione said would increase regulation at the Wainscott-based facility.

However, critics note the approval also sets the stage for the East Hampton Town Board to accept more grant monies from the FAA, which gives the agency some control over operations at the airport.

The FAA informed East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson of its approval via letter last Tuesday, stating the FAA’s New York Airports District Office deemed the ALP “acceptable.”

“This fulfills a campaign promise-to get our airport into a more safe and secure position within professional aviation and just as important, to be a better neighbor,” said Wilkinson. “Now we can move on a seasonal control tower.”

The FAA’s approval allows East Hampton Town officials to obtain FAA authorization for a temporary seasonal control tower and the designation of ten-miles of airspace around the airport under direct FAA supervision, according to Stanzione, who is the town board liaison to the airport.

Supervisor Wilkinson said this would give East Hampton “effective control of our airspace.”

According to a press release issued by Supervisor Wilkinson’s office last week, town records show that the last time the East Hampton ALP was approved was in 1989.

“This is a historical moment in modern town history,” said Supervisor Wilkinson.

The newly approved ALP accepts the town’s layout for the airport as it exists today, in both physical and technical aviation terms, said Stanzione. The town board adopted both the ALP and the Airport Master Plan last year, although the FAA has not made any decisions regarding the sufficiency of the Airport Master Plan.

That document is the subject of a lawsuit brought by a group of residents last year, who claim the issue of noise was not sufficiently addressed within the Airport Master Plan.

“While the FAA approval of our ALP is a milestone achievement, it is part of a more comprehensive approach to managing the airport as a business and community asset, and to creatively and practically mitigating impacts of aviation activity, efforts Councilman Stanzione has diligently pursued,” said Supervisor Wilkinson.

The approval also allows the town the ability to seek funding from the FAA for capital improvements. Critics of the noise generated by helicopters and planes flying in and out of the airport maintain the town would be best served by allowing FAA grant restrictions to expire in 2014, rather than extend them by accepting more funding.

According to Barry Raebeck and Bob Wolfram, of the Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC), allowing those restrictions to expire would give the town the ability to return the East Hampton Airport to its intended use – a small town airport, rather than an airport that accepts around 80 percent of the air traffic volume seen at Islip MacArthur Airport.

On Friday, Raebeck and Wolfram attended the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to introduce the QSC and enlist the CAC’s support as the organization battles to reduce the amount of activity at the airport.

Raebeck said outside of the quality of life and noise issues many residents of East Hampton and Southampton contend with each summer due to the number of planes and helicopters flying into the airport, the amount of activity at the facility creates visual pollution, air pollution and is an environmental danger.

Wolfram asked the CAC to reach out to Southampton Town officials and implore them to ask the East Hampton Town Board to “control” their airport as the impact of the facility reaches far outside East Hampton Town borders.

“We are not trying to close the airport or attack our local recreational pilots, but return the airport to its original use,” said Raebeck.

He added the current town board under Supervisor Wilkinson have disbanded the noise abatement committee and refers to the airport as if it is a community asset. Raebeck said likely just one-to-two percent of the community uses the airport, with just two or three local businesses profiting off its existence.

“The helicopters and seaplanes are largely based in New York and Dutchess County,” he said.

Raebeck said the QSC was attempting to expand beyond its 150-membership to become a large organization with influence, and will be asking all candidates seeking office in East Hampton this fall to pledge whether or not they plan on taking more funding from the FAA.

“If the airport reverts to local control, we have local control,” he said. “We could say, no helicopters. We could say, from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. the airport is closed.”

“I don’t want a major, metropolitan airport near my house, or anyone’s house for that matter,” added Raebeck.

New Coalition Seeks to Limit Aircraft Noise

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By Claire Walla

In the height of the summer season, when many of the city’s Hamptons-bound denizens take to the skies to circumvent traffic, local discontent over noisy aircraft tends to bubble to the surface.

Two weeks ago, these sentiments coalesced in the form of a new organization called The Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC).

“The amount of traffic using the airport uncontrolled is mind-boggling,” said QSC member Bob Wolfram, a resident of Carlisle Lane in Sag Harbor.

He pointed to the very first QSC meeting to illustrate his point. When founding members of the grass-roots coalition were gathered in QSC Chairman Barry Raebeck’s backyard (a two-minute drive from the airport), Wolfram said he counted precisely 12 small planes, five jets and two helicopters, all of which flew over the property in the course of the two-hour meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We had to stop talking when they flew over,” he said.

While local efforts have voiced strong opinions against aircraft noise for years, Raebeck said this coalition (which already has about 140 members) represents a stronger, more far-reaching alliance, all united under the notion that airplanes and helicopters “are an aural and visual blight to the East End,” Raebeck explained. “They are for the benefit of a wealthy few, at the expanse of everyone else.”

East Hampton Town has currently set recommended restrictions on airplane travel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. And it encourages planes and helicopters to travel no lower that 2,500 feet for as long as possible before reaching the East Hampton tarmac.

“They have recommendations, but no one is enforcing them,” Raebeck continued.

For members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, many problems with the airport stem from the fact that the town has collected grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which in effect bars the town from regulating any of these restrictions. “The town has abdicated all responsibility. [The East Hampton Airport] is legally and technically an ‘uncontrolled airport,’” Raebeck said.

Airport manager Jim Brundige confirmed that airport regulation is in the hands of the FAA, which forbids the town from limiting access to the airport, even imposing time restrictions. The town accepted money from the FAA as recently as 2001 for minor repairs like repaving, Brundige explained. And because FAA grants carry a stipulation that binds airports to federal aviation regulations for a 20-year period, this means East Hampton Town must adhere to FAA rules through 2021.

Congressman Tim Bishop — who has been involved with efforts to regulate helicopter noise on the East End — said the town will have to decide, once the 20-year period is up, whether or not to continue receiving grant money.

“If they don’t, then the obligation would fall to the tax payers of East Hampton,” he explained.

In general, Bishop said FAA regulations are reasonable. However, “I don’t want to say aircraft noise needs to be reduced, but it needs to be regulated in some way.”

According to East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, that’s exactly what he, as the airport liaison, has been working on for the past year.

“Helicopter traffic is a regional problem that starts in Manhattan,” Stanzione explained. Along with elected officials in Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southampton, he said he’s reestablished the town’s relationship with the FAA to establish a southern route to the airport. (He said the town would officially announce the new route in the next couple of weeks.) Stanzione estimated this would cut traffic over the northern communities down by about 60 percent.

“We call it burden-sharing,” he added.

Stanzione also said the town is working with the FAA to get permission to place a seasonal control tower at the airport, as well.

“If we have permission to install this seasonal control tower, then we will have effective control in and around East Hampton,” he said. In the end, he added, “I suspect the town’s new relationship with the FAA will provide helpful improvements with noise management, and provide the best possible solutions for our neighbors.”

But the QSC is calling for more than just an additional southern route. Airplanes and helicopters, the group contends, carry more burden that noise pollution. They are also hazardous to the environment.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” QSC member Bob Wolfram continued. “The East End of Long Island is a beautiful place. [Little pieces] get chipped away over time,” he admitted. “But the growth of the airport has taken a big hunk out of our quality of life.”