Anyone who’s spent any time near the bluffs by the Mattituck Inlet knows the distinctive thumping of constant helicopters coming in low, using the swath of the inlet as a guide toward the East Hampton Airport.
The Eastern Region Helicopter Council has proposed this year that helicopters take one of three voluntary routes on their transition from the offshore North Shore helicopter route to land at East Hampton Airport, instead of all coming in over the Mattituck Inlet.
But Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell says those two additional routes, over Peconic and over the Orient causeway, will just make more Southold residents hopping mad.
“They’re not solving Southold’s problem. They’re just spreading it out,” said Mr. Russell at Tuesday’s town board work session. “We’re against it.”
Mr. Russell said he plans to publish the map of the proposed routes on the town’s website along with phone numbers for federal elected officials with an interest in FAA issues.
To federal legislators, he warned, “your phones are about to start ringing from all over Southold Town.”
Mr. Russell and Town Councilman Bill Ruland said they don’t believe Senator Chuck Schumer is acting in good faith toward the residents of Southold, focusing instead on the portion of the North Shore route which requires helicopters to travel offshore along the Gold Coast, before beginning their transition to fly toward the East Hampton Airport over Southold Town. The offshore route is mandatory until it reaches the Sound coast off of Jamesport, when helicopters are allowed to begin turning in on their final approach to the airport.
“You shouldn’t be surprised that there’s no support from Schumer or Gillibrand,” said Mr. Ruland. “They seem to be aligned with the helicopter companies more than the people of the Town of Southold. With the FAA holding all the cards, I don’t know how we get to them.”
“He could slip this into an omnibus budget bill,” agreed Mr. Russell of Mr. Schumer. “If he wanted to get this done, he could get this through Congress.”
Mr. Russell commended East Hampton Town for trying to enact restrictions at their municipal airport in Wainscott last year, but with the restrictions still the subject of litigation by pilot groups, and with the Federal Aviation Administration filing an amicus brief on behalf of the pilots, he believes now is the time to let the Feds know that Southold isn’t happy.
“Look, it’s an agency designed to promote aviation,” said Mr. Russell of the FAA. “I have to say how impressed I am with East Hampton’s willingness to work on this. I went to some of their hearings, and they said this is the right thing to do. We have to be good neighbors. I commend [East Hampton Town] Supervisor Larry Cantwell.”
Southold is asking residents to call the following elected officials to ask them to abandon the North Shore helicopter route: Congressman Lee Zeldin (Speak to Kevin Dowling, Legislative Assistant) at 631.289.1097; Senator Charles E. Schumer (Speak to Kyle Strober, Long Island Regional Director) at 631.753.0978; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Speak to Deborah Tinnirello, Long Island Regional Director) at 631.249.2825; Geri Shapiro, Sr. Advisor to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at 212.688.6262; FAA Eastern Region Administrator Paul Laude at 718.553.3458 and Eastern Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo at 718.553.3001.
“Call Kyle and say ‘enough is enough,'” said Mr. Russell.