New helicopter flight plans hold good and bad news for Shelter Islanders, according to Supervisor Jim Dougherty.
Mr. Dougherty gave his assesement Friday at the Town Board meeting following a meeting he had earlier in the day with members of the Multi-Town Helicopter Noise Advisory Committee, an ad hoc group of East End town and village officials and managers of area airports.
The flights travel between Manhattan and East Hampton, often to the consternation of those on the ground who have complained of constant noise emanating from frequent flights that cross over land at various points on the North and South forks and Shelter Island.
This summer’s plans call for two-engine helicopters — those most responsible for noise that has disturbed East End residents — to fly at least two miles east of Shelter Island and at heights where their noise shouldn’t be heard on the ground, Mr. Dougherty said. The two-engine helicopters account for about 90 percent of the traffic headed for the East Hampton Airport, he said. As for the other 10 percent — the single-engine lower flying helicopters — they will use three different routes, one of which would be over Shelter Island, he said. But those helicopters are supposed to be quieter even though they fly at lower altitudes and Shelter Island would experience about one-third of such flights, much less than in previous years.
The news came to the ad hoc group from James Brundige, manager of the East Hampton Airport, at a meeting at Sag Harbor Village Hall earlier Friday afternoon that included representatives for Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Kenneth LaValle along with Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr..
Most of the Sag Harbor meeting was in executive session, but prior to closing the session, Mr. Dougherty appealed to his colleagues from other East End towns and villages to adopt resolutions similar to what Shelter Island has had on the books since 2007. Except for emergency purposes such as medical evacuations, helicopters aren’t allowed to take off or land on Shelter Island.
One exception was made last September when the Town Board heard a plea from Matt Rohde, one of the organizers of the Wounded Warrior Spur Ride to allow a Vietnam-era Marine Helicopter, a Sikorski UH-34-Stinger from the Freedoms Flying Memorial, to land here as part of the celebration. And even then, permission was granted for the helicopter to land at Klenawicus airstrip, not at Fiske Field as originally requested.
Nonetheless, Mr. Dougherty told his colleagues at the helicopter meeting he stood by the Island’s policy in order to maintain quiet skies.
“I indicated that I was sullen, but not mutinous,” about the request for unanimous agreement on new flight plans. He said he would likely abstain rather than vote against it.
Jim Colligan, president of the Silver Beach Association on Shelter Island, appealed to the committee to request that helicopters fly south around Orient Point and back up to East Hampton, saying even single-engine helicopters generate a lot of noise
Mr. Dougherty described Friday’s committee meeting as “pretty good,” saying that usually when there are 12 people in the room with differing opinions about how to respond to the noise problem, there are 12 different opinions.
Mr. Thiele made similar reference in talking to the Shelter Island Town Board Friday afternoon, noting that his First Assembly District covers Shelter Island and the Hamptons and he has to assure that in fighting for the interests of one sector, he’s not imposing on the needs of another.
But he added, “If Jim Dougherty is not happy with helicopter traffic, than I’m not happy.”