East Hampton Councilwoman Calls for Holding Off On Helicopter Ban, Adopting Other Airport Noise Restrictions

Helicopter restrictions are on the table at the East Hampton Airport
Helicopter restrictions are on the table at the East Hampton Airport

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, liaison to the East Hampton Airport, is recommending that the town board adopt three of the four noise restrictions proposed earlier this year.

In a statement issued after a discussion of the matter at an East Hampton Town Board work session Tuesday morning, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez suggested the board not adopt a restriction banning noisy helicopters on weekends during the summer season.

The proposed restrictions had included a mandatory nighttime curfew, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on noisy aircraft (not including turboprops) from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., a ban on all helicopters on weekends during the summer season and a limit on operations by noisy aircraft of one trip per week during the summer season.

“Based on preliminary conversations with our expert on traffic diversion, there is a real risk
that an unintended consequence of a ban on helicopters on weekends in the summer
could be a shift of the impacts to Montauk as well as neighboring communities,” she said in her statement. “I have long said that I will not push our problem on others and I will respect that commitment.”

“I believe that there is a strong consensus that the first two rules which impose curfews on nighttime, evening and early morning operations are an essential part of any package,” she added. “In addition, the one-trip-per-week proposal, which limits the volume and frequency of airport use by noisy aircraft types during the summer season, is also an essential component – as it limits the number of disruptions from the noisiest aircraft.”

The Concerned Citizens of Montauk and many Montauk residents had expressed concern at a public hearing in March that a ban on helicopters could lead to increased traffic at the tiny private Montauk Airport, while Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley had expressed concern that the traffic could be re-routed to the Southampton Heliport. Representatives from Southampton and Riverhead towns had expressed concern that traffic could increase at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton if helicopters were barred from the East Hampton Airport.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez is recommending that the board adopt the other three proposed local laws at their April 16 town board meeting. She added the town’s noise consultant estimates the three laws would address 60 percent of complaints about East Hampton Airport operations.

“Like any balanced approach, the three laws will not make everyone happy,” she said. “But I believe that the new package of curfews and a one trip limit on noisy aircraft is the most
reasonable first step. That is, in my mind, meaningful relief.”

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez’s full statement is available online here.

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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