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Jul 16, 2013 5:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Hails Court Ruling On Helicopters; Pilots Tout Stance On FAA Funds

Jul 16, 2013 5:59 PM

A federal court decision on Friday, denying a commercial helicopter trade group’s effort to overturn a rule requiring pilots to fly a mile north of Long Island’s North Shore, has been hailed by both sides in the long simmering dispute over noise coming from East Hampton Airport.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington against Helicopter Association International, which had challenged the Federal Aviation Administration ruling issued last summer, was applauded by East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the town’s airport liaison, who claimed that it bodes well for the town’s own efforts to regulate chopper noise at the airport. Kathleen Cunningham, the chairwoman of the anti-noise East Hampton Quiet Skies Coalition, also praised the ruling, saying it highlighted the importance of residents lodging noise complaints.

Meanwhile, the East Hampton Aviation Association, in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the running debate over East Hampton Airport, is touting the recent opinion of an experienced aviation law consultant it hired, who said rejecting FAA funding would not give the town greater control over the airport in terms of adopting “reasonable and non-discriminatory restrictions” for its use.

The opinion—issued by David Schaffer, a former senior counsel and staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee, in a July 1 letter to the pilots’ association—echoes the opinion of the town’s aviation attorney, Peter J. Kirsch. He previously reported to the Town Board that accepting FAA grants would not hurt the town’s ability to address community noise concerns.

Helicopter-noise opponents have claimed that if the town stopped accepting federal money, and let the time restrictions on the grants it has already received expire, it would be free to restrict airport access to noisy aircraft and set curfews.

In his letter, Mr. Schaffer said his conclusions were based on his knowledge of federal aviation law and an extensive survey of more than 30 cases spanning 40 years involving the rights of local powers to impose airport restrictions. His experience, he pointed out, includes 20 years with the House Aviation Subcommittee, six years as attorney-advisor for the Civil Aeronautics Board and nine years in private practice representing governmental and private aviation clients.

The town, as the airport’s proprietor, he saids, can make noise regulations even if it continues to accept federal funds, Restrictions on helicopter operations must be “reasonable” and not make “unjustified distinctions between operators or types of aircraft.

To justify restrictions on helicopters, he wrote, the town should undertake technical studies to establish that East Hampton is a quiet community and that choppers are noisier or more bothersome than fixed-wing aircraft. If these studies demonstrate a justification for restrictions, then curfews and limits on the numbers of flights could be upheld, even if the town continues to take FAA funding, thus extending the length of time it is bound by FAA grant restrictions.

Finally, Mr. Schaffer rejected how an oft-cited court case, National Helicopter Corp. of America v. City of New York, has been used as an example to show that a municipality can win the ability to regulate helicopters by rejecting FAA funds. According to him, municipalities’ regulations must meet the same federal standards for establishing noise restrictions, regardless of whether they get FAA funds.

“The opponents want the town not to take what they call the ‘poison money’ because they want the town to be free of grant assurances,” some of which expire as soon as next year, said Gerard Boleis, president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, on Monday. “Our position is that there is no reason—notwithstanding the propaganda of the opponents—not to take FAA money.”

His group’s main goal, he said, is to keep the airport open. He said that he believes airport opponents, despite their claims to the contrary—because it would be an unpopular stance—are seeking to shut it down and to do that, they are trying to prevent “at all costs” the town from taking FAA money. “I believe that’s their ultimate goal and that’s what we’re fighting. That’s the only advantage they would gain by not taking FAA money, not to mention the airport would decay.”

Mr. Stanzione on Monday said the court’s upholding of FAA authority to regulate helicopter noise paves the way for continuing to press it to implement a long sought after effort to route helicopters over the Atlantic Ocean instead of over homes on land, and to continue working with the FAA to get approval for additional noise control measures, such as mandatory curfews and access restrictions.

The town is in the first phase of conducting noise studies on which about $50,000 was already budgeted for and spent, he said. These studies are expected to take two to three years and will require additional money to the tune of about $2 million, he said.

Jeffrey Bragman, an East Hampton attorney representing petitioners in a lawsuit challenging the environmental review for the airport’s master plan and layout plan, said on Monday that he disagrees with Mr. Schaffer’s findings.

“They’re deliberately trying to confuse the public about FAA grant funding,” he said.

Airport Manager Jim Brundige, told the Town Board last week that the number of aircraft landing at and departing from the airport was way down this year over the same Fourth of July period the year before, which he attributed to rain. Only a tiny portion of pilots violated an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. voluntary curfew, he said.

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Actually it is Jeff Bragman who is "confused" and who is trying to confuse the public. This latest case makes it very clear that the Town CAN take federal grants for repairs at the airport (weeds growing up through dangerous cracks in the runway) and can still regulate and limit helicopter traffic. In fact, our chance of doing that successfully are actually enhanced if we work with the FAA.
By PQ (9), Riverhead on Jul 17, 13 8:34 AM
Until the FAA starts exerting its will with untold demands and conditions, for another 20 years?

Why would EH Town go to bed with any federal agency, given how messed up Washington is? Can you predict who will be running the FAA ten years from now, and what they will DEMAND of EH? Of course not, so why would EH want to bind itself to The Unknown?

"When you lie down with dogs, don't complain when you wake up with fleas . . . "
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 17, 13 1:11 PM
The FAA can't "demand" anything beyond the stipulations in the grant assurances, and certainly can't reach beyond these for future grant assurances without due process and public input.

The only ones who are DEMANDing anything are those who, yes, do want the airport shut down-are obsessed with accomplishing just that in fact, as it makes no sense to DEMAND that the East Hampton taxpayers shoulder the unnecessary burden of maintaining the airport. Or to DEMAND that the pilots do so--which ...more
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jul 17, 13 6:12 PM
Bragman and his clients further add to confusion by misrepresenting the implications of the settlement of a lawsuit by the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion against the FAA a few years ago.
1. They claim it results in certain grant assurances expiring in 2014. IN FACT the settlement merely provided that the FAA wound not enforce them. That only means that rather than a party adversely affected by any hostile action after 2014 seeking enforcement by the FAA it would seek the same relief from ...more
By Solusipse (8), Sagaponack on Jul 17, 13 1:12 PM
Schaffer quote: "The town, as the airport’s proprietor can make noise regulations even if it continues to accept federal funds, Restrictions on helicopter operations must be “reasonable” and not make “unjustified distinctions between operators or types of aircraft.

SagHarborBob: If this is so, why didn't the Town Airport Liason Stanzione and Airport manager Brundige put MANDATORY noise, route and hours of operation regulations into effect 5 years ago? 4 years ...more
By SagHarborBob (91), Life is Good on Jul 17, 13 2:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Uhhhhhmmmm - because Stanzione wasn't in office 5 years ago? and was just elected less than 4 years ago? SHB - your logic and math is SCARING me ...
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Jul 30, 13 8:46 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Jul 18, 13 12:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Oh, and SHBob... Before you start in with false assumptions (as you are prone to do), I am not a wealthy rich person who lives south of the highway. I am a year round local who lives under the NE approach to the airport. I hear various aircraft fly over my house all the time and I barely notice the 3-5 seconds of noise. Workmen's trucks make more noise diving by than the airplanes do! Are you going to start in on them next?
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Jul 18, 13 12:17 AM
Oh Really. Move to Noyac and see for yourself.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jul 22, 13 7:39 PM
Please oh please, target leaf blowers and mowers and weed whackers....

They make MUCH more noise than planes.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jul 18, 13 3:41 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Jul 19, 13 1:03 AM
Not sure why your post got deleted, localEH, but you may need to adjust your compass with comments about the Press supporting closure of the airport.

Moreover, the Quiet Skies Coalition [dot org] states on its website:

"We want to preserve East Hampton airport as a local asset and avoid ceding control to FAA officials who have no stake in our quality of life here on the East End."

[under "Mission" heading on the left]

If you want to be taken seriously here ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 19, 13 4:54 AM
The Quiet Skies Coalition is firmly in favor of CLOSING the airport and saying otherwise is utterly spurious. Clearly 27 East is also part of the anti-airport crowd since they censor and delete any comments in opposition to the demanded closure (so much for free speech). It is not just a few "rogue" commenters - it is a very loud and organized group who is using political, media, and strong arm (verbal) tactics to achieve their goal of the closure of the airport, which just *coincidentally* happens ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Jul 19, 13 10:01 AM
It is my understanding that Dalene and Raeback no longer represent the views of the Quiet Skies Coalition, as its website would suggest (did you even look at the QSC website at all?)

If you take historical quotes and use them out-of-context, you are going to get called on it.


Reminder, I am only talking about QSC. ONLY.

PS -- Your posts were probably deleted for other reasons. Please find a quote from the Press which says it is in favor of closing the ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 19, 13 10:31 AM
PS2 localEH, if you take the time to calmly peruse the QSC website, you will find that the two gentlemen, and the one organization, cite above are not listed executive committee members, or as a supporting or affiliated organization.

Check the "About Us" link at the QSC dot org site please.

If you find them listed on the QSC please point us all in the right direction (URL links are not allowed at 27east in case you are unfamiliar with their terms of service).
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 19, 13 10:37 AM
PS3 -- Please check the signature lines in the documents you cite above, and confirm whether the two gentlemen signed as representing QSC. The date of publication would also be helpful so that we are all on the same page. Thank you, and have a good weekend.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 19, 13 10:40 AM
Doth protest too much PBR ... so what, EXACTLY, are you in favor of? Because I'm missing it ... no FAA funding? Because the FAA "demands" MIGHT change?! And then we would have to spend $ on lawsuits? Like my tax dollars haven't been funding Jeff Bragman's life for YEARS now? Take the money, I say (and vote). Have a hunch that of those who consider the airport a "serious issue" at least 75% of voters feel that way ... it's the vocal David Gruber camp (Kathee Gonzalez? Job Potter? did they take ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Jul 30, 13 8:57 PM
Well congratulations on the ruling. Now please require that when they fly the southern route they also go out one mile out over the sea. Was at the beach yesterday and they were going at about a rate of 5 an hour it seemed over the beaches.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jul 19, 13 8:04 AM