The eyes and ears of East End communities will be focused on the East Hampton Town Board Wednesday evening.
The board is holding a special meeting — already moved once by date and time and to a bigger venue — to discuss the East Hampton airport and the record number of aircraft that has gone in and out of the facility this summer, triggering outrage from many residents who have to endure the sound.
The special meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m. at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott. Town buses will be provided for residents interested in attending the meeting. People are advised to be at the Town Hall parking lot at 5 p.m. sharp on Wednesday. Those interested in carpooling should show up at the same time and place.
It’s not people’s imaginations that aircraft sound has become more constant and deafening this summer. At the end of July, the airport had 12,6777 take offs or landings tis year, compared to 10,577 for the same period last year.
Residents are hearing it and giving an earful to airport officials, with 10,158 complaints by the end of July, compared to just 2,798 last year.
The traffic to and from New York City to East Hampton has increased because of an improving economy and through phone apps and ride sharing, providing cheaper flights to the Hamptons for the weekend and trips back to the city.
East Hampton lost some controls over its airport policy several years go when the town took Federal Aviation Administration grants, mostly to upgrade infrastructure. The town signed, “grant assurances” with the FAA, and part of that agreement was keeping the airport open to traffic around the clock throughout the year, and not to discriminate against the type of aircraft using the facility.
As a result of abandoning its rights in the agreement, the door has been open to helicopter and other aircraft companies to maximize their services for clients flying in to East Hampton.
But when the grant assurances become void December 31, it will be up to the current East Hampton Town Board to decide to accept or reject more federal funds for airport improvements, and also debate limits for aircraft companies and services on airport use.
East Hampton could impose reasonable operating hours, curfews and other limitations on aircraft services, including the size of aircraft using the airport.
In November of last year a new Democratic majority was elected to the East Hampton Town Board. One new member, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, made noise abatement one of the principle planks of her campaign platform.
The new board acted quickly on the issue of gaining control of the airport by passing a resolution in February to produce a financial analysis of the airport, mainly to see if the facility could operate without FAA support. Two months later the report came in stating that there will be “sufficient revenue from airport operations and properties to adequately service additional bonding in 2014 of at least $4.35 million and at least $5.1 million in aggregate between 2014 and 2018 (even if revenues were to decrease because of a reduction of the volume or complete elimination of helicopter operations and strict curfew approved) …”
If East Hampton refuses to take federal money and imposes restrictions on airport use and certain aircraft, litigation will almost surely follow, with aircraft service providers citing government-imposed restraints of free trade.
In the budget analysis of the airport, there doesn’t seem to be any litigation expenses listed, just one line item that reads, “2014 Budget for Outside Professional” for $100,000, which some critics have said is a drop in the bucket for a multi-million dollar lawsuit that could be mounted.
The special East Hampton Town Board meeting on aircraft noise is scheduled for Wednesday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m. at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott.