East Hampton to Petition U.S. Supreme Court Over Airport Curfew Smackdown

On the tarmac at the East Hampton Airport
On the tarmac at the East Hampton Airport

East Hampton Town doesn’t think the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is the end of the line in the town’s quest for curfews and trip restrictions at its municipal airport. That stop, town officials are hoping, is the U.S. Supreme Court.

The town announced their intent to take the case to the Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

“We cannot let stand unchallenged a decision that completely federalizes our small community airport and strips the town of any meaningful local control of the town-owned airport,” stated Supervisor Larry Cantwell in a written statement. “The import of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision is to basically federalize every airport in the United States. This is an unreasonable outcome that should be overturned.”

The town’s airport restrictions, which were struck down by the appellate court on Nov. 5, included a mandatory nighttime curfew, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and a limit on operations by noisy aircraft of one trip per week during the summer season.

The Court of Appeals’ decision maintains that the federal Airport Noise and Control Act preempts the local laws, and that noise restrictions are allowed only if they meet the procedural requirements of the federal law, and maintains that this is mandatory for any public airport regardless of whether or not it receives federal funding.

In drafting its regulations, East Hampton relied upon written statements made by the Federal Aviation Administration to then-Congressman [Tim] Bishop, stating that the town was not required to engage in the lengthy FAA bureaucratic review process under ANCA, but could instead, as proprietor of the airport, adopt reasonable noise restrictions.

The town made its decision to petition the Supreme Court after consulting with appellate counsel Kathleen Sullivan and David Cooper of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP.

“The Second Circuit’s decision substantially deviates from not only the intent and legislative history of the congressional enactment of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act ANCA, but is a complete reversal of the Court’s own prior decision in National Helicopter,” said East Hampton Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who serves as the town board’s airport liaison. “While the town acknowledges that asking for review from the Supreme Court of the United States is an uphill fight, the outcome of the Second Circuit’s decision gives the town no choice but to undertake this endeavor.”

The town will also lobby federal legislative leaders seeking legislation to provide for more local control of airports owned and operated by municipalities.

“While we exhaust our legal remedies, the town will continue to seek federal legislative intervention,” added Mr. Cantwell. “There is an obvious need for congressional action to clarify the ANCA statute and provide local airports with explicit authority to enact reasonable restrictions of the local airports that they own and operate. The town looks forward to joining with other local airport proprietors to call on Congress to enact this type of legislation.”

The Town expects to file its petition for a writ of certiorari by the end of January 2017.

State Assemblyman and attorney Fred Thiele chimed in Friday with support for the town’s decision.

The town must appeal this decision which erodes the very concept of home rule,” he said. “East Hampton should not have to ask permission of the FAA to undertake the most basic function of government: the protection of public health and safety.”

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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