New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that will allow East Hampton Town to finance improvements to its airport over a longer period of time, in an attempt to help free the town from being required to accept all aircraft as a condition of receiving grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
State Senator Ken LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele authored the bill.
East Hampton had negotiated the release of its so-called FAA “grant assurances” as of Dec. 31, 2014, after not taking grant money from the FAA for several years, and last year drafted several airport noise restrictions after legal advice that they were now able to limit traffic to the airport as a result of the expiration of the grant assurances.
But, without taking FAA money, the town must pay for all necessary improvements to keep the airport safe, including clearing trees out of flight paths and maintaining runways and taxiways and lighting on the runways and taxiways.
After a federal court sided last month with an aviation advocacy group that sued over the town’s new restrictions, East Hampton is now planning to appeal that case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“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 in mid-November. “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 are applied for through 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.
According to State Senator Ken LaValle’s office, the new state law just signed by Governor Cuomo extends the maximum amortization period for airport projects, which is currently 10 years.
“This legislation would allow the town to bond out improvements over a longer period of time in an effort to give the town the time they need to fully plan and implement costly infrastructure work, and to ensure that the airport remains self-sustainable,” according to Mr. LaValle.