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Aug 28, 2012 4:22 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Residents Gather To Oppose New Helicopter Route

Aug 28, 2012 6:04 PM

More than 100 people crammed into the Bridgehampton Community Center on Thursday night to, once again, air complaints about a new East Hampton Airport route that directs helicopters over homes in Southampton Town.

It was the latest showing of frustration by residents from Noyac, Sag Harbor, North Sea and Bridgehampton, who congregated for the first time earlier this month at the Noyac Schoolhouse to oppose the new route and question how it was chosen.

This time, lawmakers from several levels of government, including representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, were at the meeting. They joined Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop.

There were no officials from East Hampton Town at the meeting.

Mr. Bishop vowed to bring both sides together under one roof.

“What I am prepared to do with Anna as my partner, there’s one meeting scheduled for Monday with the FAA and with elected officials to try to deal with this,” Mr. Bishop told the standing-room-only audience. “I also am prepared to convene a meeting of me and Anna, other 
members of the Southampton Town Board, East Hampton Town Board members, the helicopter pilots’ association 
and the air traffic controllers 
and say we’re not going to leave this room until we get a resolution.”

He stressed, though, that he doesn’t have the authority to change the route.

“All that I have is the power of persuasion,” Mr. Bishop he said. “That’s all I have. I do not have a hammer.”

Residents from both East Hampton and Southampton towns have become vocal since the helicopter route was changed from a path over Northwest Woods in East Hampton to one that flies over Jessup’s Neck and the power lines in Noyac. Airport officials have argued that the route isn’t new—it’s one that was used before 2005, and before the town had an air traffic control tower, which allows it to regulate aircraft within a 4.8-mile radius.

The route change has also caused infighting on the East Hampton Town Board, with board members arguing over who authorized the route change, and whether the entire Town Board forfeited its right to provide input on the change. The Town Board has discussed the issue at length in recent work sessions, and the board’s top two Republicans—Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley—have accused Councilman Dominick Stanzione, also a Republican, of unilaterally directing the change without any input from other members. Mr. Stanzione denounced those claims and said while he was in on discussions about the route change, that neither he nor the town had the final say.

About 20 residents from both towns gave elected officials a piece of their minds at last week’s meeting in Bridgehampton. Their comments touched on a range of issues, including safety, noise, and the process by which the route was selected. Some questioned whether helicopters could fly at higher altitudes to reduce noise, other residents suggested redirecting helicopters to Montauk because there are fewer houses near its airport, and some even proposed suing East Hampton Town.

James Ding, a Noyac resident, said he felt lawmakers weren’t prioritizing the noise issue, which has been worsening over the past five years.

“I feel like I’m in a maze with no exit,” Mr. Ding said.

Many commentators said they were angry and frustrated.

“I want to tell you that Wainscott feels like Vietnam,” said Judith Lanier, a Wainscott resident. She went on to say her family’s “lives are ruined” by the noise and that her granddaughter can’t take naps at their home.

For their part, elected officials provided background information on the issue. Ms. Throne-Holst summed up the history, noting that she and Ms. Scalera have already met with airport officials. She said she and Ms. Scalera were planning to meet with Mr. Wilkinson on Tuesday, August 28, to further discuss the problem.

She said that local governments have no control over helicopter traffic, which, she said, is federally regulated. And, she said there is only one airport in the country—Naples, Florida—where helicopters are regulated.

“We are all here because we care about this,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “So don’t shoot us messengers …”

In closing the meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst emphasized that everyone’s concerns were being heard.

“We feel your urgency,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “We sense your urgency and we’re 
going to work tirelessly to resolve this.”

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So Tim Bishop is incapable of making East Hampton airport a regulated airport like Naples. But for 5K he can make the fireworks fly. Bring out that hammer Mr. Bishop.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Aug 29, 12 7:50 PM
"Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn"
By BlackDog (47), Boca Raton on Sep 2, 12 4:12 PM