Big fight at East Hampton Town Hall over airport issues
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley went on a rampage against her fellow board member and airport liaison Dominick Stanzione at the East Hampton Town Board’s Tuesday work session over the nearly $200,000 unbudgeted cost of an environmental report prepared for their airport’s seasonal control tower, which left the airport with very little money left over to pay for any potential legal challenges it may face this year.
East Hampton board members are also concerned about rumblings that new helicopter routes being planned by Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop around Orient Point and along the South Shore will funnel all the air traffic from both routes through Wainscott and Sagaponack, when areas to the north of the airport surrounding Sag Harbor on the South Fork and Cutchogue on the North Fork have lately been bearing the brunt of helicopter noise on its final approach to the airport.
Mr. Schumer’s proposal to mandate a restriction of 2,500 feet above ground and one mile offshore along the northern route, mandated by the FAA for the first time last summer, was the first mandatory restriction on helicopters the FAA has ever issued.
Anger at the noise of helicopters approaching East Hampton’s airport has boiled over in neighboring towns, but nowhere is the dysfunction of the airport’s management more apparent than in the Town Board room on Pantigo Road.
Councilwoman Quigley brought the bill for the environmental assessment form to the board’s attention at Tuesday’s work session, and demanded to know why Mr. Stanzione didn’t let the board know in advance of receiving such a large bill.
“The reality is, $200,000 was spent on an EAF I knew nothing about, this board knew nothing about,” said Ms. Quigley. “I’m not comfortable with the process. I believe the airport has been run by one town board member….This is a dangerous, dangerous slope we’re on. This is government for the people, not government for Dominick Stanzione.”
Mr. Stanzione said he has been in close consultation with Airport Manager Jim Brundige and Town Comptroller Len Bernard about how best to proceed, and added that, without the EAF, the airport couldn’t have used its control tower this summer.
But Mr. Bernard said his office staff was surprised to receive a purchase order for the work done by a subcontractor hired by the town’s consultants, DY Consultants, after the work was already done, in violation of the town’s procurement policy.
Mr. Brundige, who was at the meeting, said he was informed by the FAA in January that an earlier EAF, prepared by the town’s planning department, was prepared to New York State specifications, while the airport is governed by federal law. He said the new EAF was designed to meet federal specifications and “the FAA was happy with it.”
Mr. Stanzione said the town board had already approved a contract with DY consultants to prepare the paperwork necessary to use the control tower, and Mr. Brundige added that the airport can use part of its $2 million surplus to pay for the cost of the study.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, the liaison to the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee, said Jeff Smith of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council had been to the most recent meeting of the Wainscott CAC to warn residents there of the potential noise problems they’ll face if national lawmakers push for a southern route. He said Mr. Smith told Wainscott residents that traffic on the northern route would be routed around both Orient and Montauk before flying along the south shore and then north to the airport in Wainscott. Mr. Van Scoyoc said he is awaiting documentation from Mr. Smith backing up that assertion.
“I take Jeff’s ideas very seriously,” said Mr. Stanzione, “I think this is one they’re going to protect vigorously.”
But Mr. Stanzione added that he is a proponent of the southern route.
“I would be arguing for the southern route as best I can,” he said, but Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said it is the board’s official policy to support both routes.
“The southern route is exposed to weather far greater than the northern route, particularly fog,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “Any voluntary path goes out the window in inclement weather, as we all well know.”
Shelter Island Town
Shelter Island held a work session Tuesday morning, at which they discussed the Peconic Estuary Program’s new proposed inter-municipal agreement allowing East End towns and villages to share PEP resources on stormwater mitigation. All towns along the coast are in the midst of implementing new federal storm water requirements known as MS4. That stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, though Councilman Dominick Stanzione of East Hampton has in the past called it “Man, You’re Screwed Four Times,” because the requirements are very expensive and, in many cases, unfunded by the federal government.
Anyway, all the East End towns are in various stages of joining the agreement, said PEP director Alison Branco in an interview last week. There was a brief brouhaha that made headlines a couple weeks ago when Councilwoman Quigley, of East Hampton, said she didn’t want to approve the agreement until she had a chance to look at it more closely. Ms. Branco made a trip out to East Hampton last Tuesday to try to explain the agreement in greater detail. East Hampton ended up signing on to the agreement last Thursday night, though Ms. Quigley cast the sole vote against it, saying she still didn’t have enough information. So far, Brookhaven and Southold have also agreed to sign on to the plan.
Shelter Island will hold its next regular meeting this Friday.
Riverhead Town met briefly on Tuesday. They approved a bunch of events and gave a bunch of kids awards for designing posters designating Aug. 6 as a law enforcement “Night Out” against crime.
Southold Town and Southampton Town
Both of these towns have the week off. Next Tuesday, Southold will hold another public hearing on Plum Island zoning, and Southampton will hold a marathon session of public hearings on everything ranging from cemetery regulations to land preservation to the cleanup of a bunch of derelict properties in Flanders and Riverside.