After Court Decision; Effort to Close East Hampton Airport Gains Steam

East Hampton Airport
East Hampton Airport

Opponents of noisy aircraft usage of the East Hampton Airport have rallied around a potential shut-down of the airport after an appeals court decision Nov. 4 struck down East Hampton’s noise restrictions enacted last year.

East Hampton Town representatives said in a Nov. 4 statement that although the “court decision places the solution to aviation noise problem firmly at the feet of Congress and the FAA, the town will continue to explore every available option so that the residents of the East End won’t continue to be inflicted by an unrelenting din from the skies above.”

Many feel one of those available options is to close the airport.

“With this decision, the court has expanded federal control at the expense of local government, eroding the concept of home rule,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele in a statement Monday. “In doing so, the court has now raised the question of whether or not the Town of East Hampton should be in the “airport business” at all. The health and safety of its residents must always take precedence over commercial enterprise. While I have always believed that the responsible operation of an airport in East Hampton is an asset to the town, this court causes all responsible persons to first reconsider whether or not the town should be in the airport business.”

Mr. Thiele said the town, like all property owners, “has a responsibility to ensure that their property is used in a way that is not injurious to the public health and safety of its residents,” and commended the town for its efforts to “protect the peace and good order of the entire East End.”

“Unfortunately, this court decision places the authority for the protection of the people of the East End squarely on the back of the federal government, in general, and the FAA in particular,” he added. “The FAA has shown itself to be interested only in protecting the moneyed special interests of the helicopter industry. There is no reason to believe that will change. Now, it will be up to the U.S Congress, the elected representatives of the people, to ensure that this federal usurpation is reversed and the concept of home rule restored by recognizing that the Town of East Hampton, as an airport proprietor, need not ask permission of the FAA to undertake the most basic function of government: the protection of public health and safety.”

The civic group “Say No to KHTO” went further than Mr. Thiele’s sentiment, stating that they did not have faith in the town’s efforts.  KHTO is the International Civil Aviation Organization airport location identifier for East Hampton Airport.

“We anticipated this ruling,” said the group’s founder, Patricia Currie. “Noise-affected residents have been manipulated by the town’s poorly-conceived approach to securing peace and quiet for the thousands of Long Island families who suffer health threatening noise impacts generated by this airport. Perhaps now more people will clearly see that the only remedy is to close that airport!”

The group described the advice of the town’s aviation counsel, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell as “questionable,” adding that their annual billing “hovers around $500,000,” and described the appeals court ruling’s assertion that the town must work through the procedural guidelines of the 1990 federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act as “a procedural nightmare for local control of a municipally-owned airport.”

“It is unreasonable for anyone to suffer the disturbing impacts of aircraft noise under any circumstance, and decades of noise complaints have not moved the needle in favor of residents,” added Ms. Currie. “Now, we will again be subjected to noise disturbances at any time day or night and each disturbance is an outrageous assault.The current town administration took office with good intentions, but their efforts have failed to quiet it down, now we must close it down. Enough pandering to aviation operators whose claims about “safety” fail to conceal their real motives: unfettered access 24/7/365 and airport expansion.

The group stated that their immediate goal is to “develop plans for environmentally responsible and socially sensitive alternative uses of the airport property so that taxpayers and voters of East Hampton can fully understand just how much the airport is costing the community in lost potential income.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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