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Feb 4, 2015 1:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Proposes Curfews To Curb Airport Noise, Aviators See Airport's Eventual Demise

Feb 10, 2015 3:27 PM

In just a few short months, new curfews and limits on air traffic could change the dynamic in the skies over the East End.

On February 4, the East Hampton Town Board unveiled four proposed regulations for the town airport that offer a glimmer of hope for noise-affected residents—and, potentially, a major disruption for pilots and others dependent on the airport.

The town has scheduled a public hearing at LTV Studios in Wainscott for Thursday, March 5, to discuss the proposed new restrictions at the airport. They include a ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. for all types of aircraft; a ban on aircraft labeled as “noisy” year-round from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.; a complete ban on helicopters during holidays and weekends between May 1 and September 30; and more limits on “noisy” aircraft, allowing only two operations in any week during the summer season, meaning one takeoff and one landing.

Ted Baldwin, of Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson, a consulting firm hired by the town, presented what he said are the most tailored solutions to the specific problem. That problem, he said, could be summed up in a statement presented by Katie van Heuven, an attorney with the law firm Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell: “Noise from aircraft operating at East Hampton Airport disturbs many residents of the East End of Long Island. Residents find helicopters more disturbing than any category of fixed-wing aircraft. Disturbance caused by all types of aircraft is most significant when operations are most frequent and in the evening, night and early morning hours.”

Mr. Baldwin said that for purposes of the summer ban, the weekends would begin at noon on Thursdays and last through Mondays at noon, and holidays would include the days before and after. All the restrictions are meant to build on each other to achieve the goal of cutting down noise complaints, he said.

During the special meeting held by the Town Board last week, Mr. Baldwin said if all four proposed flight restrictions were in effect last year, they would have affected 6,136 takeoffs and landings, or 24 percent of the nearly 26,000 operations. At the same time, out of the more than 22,000 complaints registered with the town last year, 67 percent, or nearly 15,000 complaints, had to do with issues that the four proposed restrictions would address.

Up until now, the airport had been obligated to the Federal Aviation Administration for grants that it took in 2001, which were set to expire in 2021. But in 2005, as part of an agreement following a lawsuit to stop airport expansion, the FAA waived them, allowing them to expire at the end of 2014. Now that the obligation no longer exists, the town can impose restrictions on access to the airport.

The town will not seek the FAA’s approval of the restrictions, and their enactment would make the town ineligible for future federal grants. To get a grant, the town Board would have to rescind the regulations.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this month to meet with FAA officials to discuss the situation.

A large contingent of government representatives from affected areas attended the February 4 meeting of the Town Board, including Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach, Mayor Jeff Sander of North Haven Village, Mayor Don Louchheim of Sagaponack Village, as well as Assemblyman Fred Thiele and representatives of U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, Senator Kenneth LaValle, and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski. None would comment yet on the particulars, with each saying he or she needed time to process the proposals and speak with their constituents.

While there seemed to be some positive feedback at last week’s meeting on the work that the town has done thus far, there remain questions that need to be answered, like the impact that the regulations may have on other airports. Jeremy Samuelson of Concerned Citizens of Montauk suggested that the town should determine where traffic might go if not to East Hampton Airport, and to place a rule mandating over-water approach for helicopters that land at Montauk Airport.

Representatives from the aviation community are opposed to the measures—including former East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who now serves as a consultant for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport. He said he believes things are moving too quickly without paying heed to possible economic impacts.

“This has changed drastically, 180 degrees, from the time I was in,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “I fear there is shortsightedness—the Town Board is in such a rush. To think, we didn’t settle things in two terms, and they’re settling it in 12 months.”

He added, “It’s a draconian reduction [in traffic], yet at the same time, how can they say this has no impact on landing fees and no impact on fuel or rental car leases? I think it is a bit premature, and I think it lacks some vision.”

He said that if the town cannot finance management and capital improvements at the airport properly, it would likely “die a slow death by the decision.”

Gerard Boleis, chairman of the airport’s Aviation Subcommittee, also spoke harshly against the proposal and the recommendations given by the airport’s Noise Subcommittee. He said the town should have worked with the FAA to undertake noise control regulations, but stressed that airport safety should have been the town’s first priority, as well as maintaining the airport’s ability to sustain itself financially.

The Noise Subcommittee two weeks ago released recommendations for curfews and bans similar to the four regulations that the town is now proposing.

“These overreaching noise proposals would also reduce airport revenue that is badly needed to maintain the airport, since the town has rejected FAA funding that is traditionally used by airports across the country for airport infrastructure,” Mr. Boleis said. “We have a deep concern that going forward with the Noise Subcommittee’s proposed restrictions will hurtle the town into years of litigation, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which the town will ultimately lose.”

Before anything can be set in motion, however, the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee must analyze how the regulations will affect the airport’s finances.

“We need to figure out how we’re going to pay for everything,” said committee member Peter Wadsworth. “Emotions are starting to run high and will run higher before this is over … Our job is to figure out how we are going to pay for this, given the restrictions proposed. We believe it is possible to finance a reasonable level of capital expenditures so the airport does not get shut down, and we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.”

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who serves as the board’s airport liaison, said the committee likely will have its analysis done by this week. She said the board expects to take final action in mid-March so the regulations are in place for the 2015 summer season.

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Not to long ago EH Airport was a small GA airport, that I have flown out of both charter and with friends. Flying around the "patch" was fun. Few noise complaints erupted until the airport became the helicopter hub of the universe with blatant disregard for the thousands of tax paying residents that they flew over. No one wants to shut the airport which is an overly dramatic statement but we want our peace and quiet restored, the same peace in quiet that we invested hundreds and hundreds of millions ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 5, 15 6:34 AM
Stop claiming no one wants to close the airport when that is a bald faced lie. Half of the members of the town's own subcommittee have publicly stated in print and on video that they want to close the airport, with several others already making proposals of what they want to do with the land when it is closed.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 5, 15 3:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
If the Town enacts these restrictions it will mean the Town is dumping its noise pollution onto residents of Montauk -- the Montauk airport is privately owned and the Town has no control whatsoever over its operations.
By Percy (7), Montauk on Feb 5, 15 4:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
hmm Krupinski. My understanding is that someone with that very same name runs a commercial helicopter operation. If that is accurate someone has a conflict of interest.....Recuse, recuse, recuse
By ddd22 (1), Sag Harbor on Feb 5, 15 7:45 PM
Best of luck to the residents for taking a stand on this important quality of life issue.

CitizensForQuietSkies dot org
By QuietSkies (1), Boulder on Feb 5, 15 8:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Looks like Cituzens Against Citizens For Quiet Skies are the only ones with common sense out there in Longmont, Colorado. Your Quiet Skies group appears to be even nuttier than ours.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 10, 15 3:21 PM
I disagree! No group can be nuttier than East Hampton's nuts!
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Feb 17, 15 12:28 PM
Weekends now last from noon on Thursday to noon on Monday? What a joke. That makes the majority of any week a 'weekend.' So, a workweek could be Monday noon to Thursday noon? A three day week? followed by a four day weekend, EVERY week. Genius. And it's not meant to close the airport? I beg to differ. Twenty years ago, David Gruber stood on the crumbling airport tarmac on runway 4-22, kicked a piece of loose pavement, and remarked that if the runway was simply not repaired, the FAA would have ...more
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Feb 5, 15 9:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't think that's right. I mean 20 years ago I think I would agree with you but the current level of traffic into East Hampton is staggering. The airport has been abused. I can't think of another word for it given the volume of helicopter and plane traffic we endured this year. It has become a quality of life issue and the majority of the community here feels that there should be some limit reasonable limit on airport noise. There is nothing patently unreasonable about the town's suggestion ...more
By Slightmadness (19), East hampton on Feb 10, 15 8:48 AM
This is all about greedy political hacks who want the airport gone so that more houses can be built. More houses mean more real estate taxes collected so more money can be spent on there salary increases. Also our political leaders in the town can get there contributors / developers the land they need. What gets me angry is the morons who bought homes and new about the noise going into the area are now complaining. Screw the lot of you....
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Feb 6, 15 12:29 PM
2 members liked this comment

By yassar arafar (33), sag harbor on Feb 6, 15 2:05 PM
Oh how awful that you have to hear the brief 8 second buzz of an airplane for a whopping total of 160 seconds a day. That's almost 3 mins of noise you must endure per day! Can you imagine the horror if you heard 3 mins of noise from cars, motorcycles, dump trucks, fire trucks, leaf blowers, barking dogs, and neighbors per day...oh wait...
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 6, 15 5:22 PM
I have absolutely no problem with airplanes. Or trains. Or leaf blowers. Or lawn mowers. Or ambulances. Or gravel pits. But the noise from the helicopters this past summer (since BLADE app was introduced ) was truly unbearable. Are you a paid publicist or an investor in Blade. If you must fly to the Hamptons on a commercial flight, please use a seaplane.(my friends seem to like "flythewhale")
By bridgewoodsmom (14), bridgehampton on Feb 9, 15 2:48 PM
You would be surprised at how many of us local pilots would be equally happy seeing Blade and large loud helicopters being forced to go elsewhere. If we could just get the town board to understand there is middle ground and that banning all commercial flights (seaplanes) is a death sentence for the airport as a whole. But as we know, that may be the ultimate end game for them.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Feb 9, 15 3:01 PM
I wonder how much noise you must 'tolerate' and for how long is it inflicted on your neighbors when you mow your lawn?
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Feb 7, 15 12:10 PM
Does anyone take Bill Wilkinson seriously anymore? He has set up a mini 'K' Street on the East End and walked directly from office to paid lobbyist. I mean he is using his "former town supervisor" title to convey authority on this issue but he is just another paid shill! I'm so sick of politicians and former politicians sticking their hand out, taking money, and preaching nonsense. I don't care where you land on the airport issue. Seeing a former supervisor in the pocket of one of the parties ...more
By Slightmadness (19), East hampton on Feb 10, 15 8:29 AM
1 member liked this comment

“This has changed drastically in 180 degrees from the time I was in,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “I fear there is shortsightedness—the Town Board is in such a rush. To think, we didn’t settle things in two terms, and they’re settling it in 12 months.”

C'mon, Bill. The status quo of your incumbency WAS your solution. Unrestricted use is good for business. Obstructionist ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 10, 15 8:58 AM
You move next to and airport and then you want the airport to move. What a joke.
By guest (68), Bridgehampton on Feb 11, 15 4:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
How can the airport support itself if it shuts down all the paying flights during the busiest part of the year?
Common sense and math make quite clear the airport will be shut down, once they stop the summer income! Duh.
I guess they think we are that stupid - say it's self-sustaining, so we will not take federal funds. Then shut down the seasonal income and starve it into closure.
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Feb 17, 15 12:19 PM
1 member liked this comment