Featured Story
10/25/17 8:52am
COURTESY PHOTO New York State has given East Hampton a voice in future FAA grants on its airport use.

COURTESY PHOTO
New York State has given East Hampton a voice in future FAA grants on its airport use.

Thanks to legislation sponsored by State Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the East Hampton Town Board and voters are assured they will have a voice in any future Federal Aviation Administrations grants. (more…)

Featured Story
03/09/15 8:00am
Congressman Lee Zeldin speaks to reporters and concerned members of the public at a press conference on helicopter noise at Southold Town Hall Sunday. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

VERA CHINESE PHOTO Congressman Lee Zeldin speaks to reporters and concerned members of the public at a press conference on helicopter noise at Southold Town Hall Sunday.  Third from left, Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

Congressman Lee Zeldin asked the Federal Aviation Administration to do its part in reducing helicopter noise on the East End before the busy summer season in a letter he sent last week.  (more…)

07/14/13 11:46am

east-end-helicopter-noise-long-island

A federal court has rejected a challenge by helicopter pilots that would have overturned Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring they fly a mile off Long Island’s North Shore during their trips back and forth to the Hamptons.

The pilots, represented by Helicopter Association International Inc., have been fighting FAA rules enacted last year after the agency found “residents emphatically agreed that helicopter overflights during the summer months are unbearable and negatively impact their quality of life,’ according to a decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.

The helicopter association had argued, among other points, that the FAA lacked the authority to change air traffic patterns solely for reducing the impact of aircraft noise on residents and had exceeded its congressional limits on authority.

The court disagreed.

“Although the noise-related provisions [the helicopter association] cites refer to discrete areas, for example, to noise reduction in or near airports, neither their substance nor their structure suggest that Congress intended to narrow its broad authorization to the FAA to regulate the use of navigable airspace, much less to restrict the FAA’s capacity to manage aircraft noise to these limited contexts,” reads the three-judge panel’s decision, written by Circuit Court Judge Judith Rogers.

The judges also agreed the FAA had the authority to act out of concern for safety on the ground, below the flight paths.

The 2012 rules came after years of complaints along the North North and Shelter Island about the noise from helicopters taking well-heeled passengers back and forth to the South Shore over homes, sometimes at low altitudes.

The concern caught the attention of Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other lawmakers who lobbied on behalf of residents for the changes.

Helicopter pilots had typically taken three routes over Long Island, either along the South Shore, North Shore, or over the Long Island Expressway. However, the North Shore route was preferred because it was faster and less likely to encounter weather delays than the southern route, according to the court case.

Under the FAA’s new rules, helicopter pilots are permitted to fly inland on the North Shore only in the case of inclement weather or other emergencies. Offenders could face fines or license revocations.

[email protected]

10/14/12 5:00pm

An “advocate” for helicopter operators is what Bill Faulk, aide to Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, has long considered Robert Grotell. Mr. Grotell’s official title is “special advisor” to the Eastern Region Helicopter Council.

Max Young, a spokesman for U.S. Senator Charles Schumer — whose office, like Mr. Romaine’s, has had numerous meetings about helicopter noise over Long Island that Mr. Grotell attended — describes him as a good one. “Robert Grotell is a forceful advocate for the helicopter industry,” he says, “and was a leader in the unsuccessful industry effort to beat back the quality-of-life-improving regulation that reduced helicopter noise by requiring pilots to fly at higher altitudes and over water.”

Nevertheless, the Town of East Hampton in March gave Mr. Grotell’s business, PlaneNoise, a contract to provide “noise complaint management services for aircraft noise complaints” involving East Hampton Airport.

The town-owned field has become the biggest noisemaker on Long Island, largely because of the helicopters flying between East Hampton and Manhattan. The choppers fly loud and low over the length of Long Island.

Efforts to deal with the raucous situation have met with stiff resistance from the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, which represents the operators of the choppers.

For example, when Mr. Romaine introduced a county law to try to deal with the helicopter noise in 2008, there was Mr. Grotell at the hearing at the Suffolk Legislature arguing that Suffolk County was preempted by the federal government from passing any law regulating the flight paths of helicopters.

The vote by the East Hampton Town Board to give Mr. Grotell a $15,000-a-year contract to monitor East Hampton Airport noise was unanimous.

Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Wainscott-based Quiet Skies Coalition, describes the arrangement as a “huge conflict of interest.”

Barry Holden of Noyac, a leader of recent citizen protests to East Hampton Airport chopper noise, says he has been “saddened but not at all surprised that the owner of the company that was hired by the East Hampton Town Board to gather this data is the preeminent lobbyist for the helicopter industry. It just shows how corrupt this [East Hampton] board has become.”

The Sag Harbor Express has editorialized that “it seems to us a little like the fox in charge of the henhouse and makes us wonder if all those calls to that [noise] hotline that we’ve made have, in fact, been for naught. We have to imagine that the East Hampton Town Board has not been ignorant of the fact of who’s been at the other end of the line and what their particular motives may be…”

Pivotal to the East Hampton arrangement was Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the board’s “liaison” to the airport. He defends it. “Some people say he’s in conflict,” he says, “but he’s very diligent and professional. I don’t see Robert as a shill for helicopter interests.”

Mr. Grotell, in an interview, said he sees no conflict. He described PlaneNoise as a “one-person shop” consisting of himself. “I have developed a technological solution allowing airports and governmental entities that run airports to collect noise complaints in an efficient manner,” he said.

As for being an advocate, “I’m an advocate of community capability,” said Mr. Grotell. He said his residence and PlaneNoise are located in Port Jefferson. He worked for New York City for 12 years including as deputy commissioner of transportation under Mayor Bloomberg.

His contract with East Hampton has been followed by one with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In August, the Port Authority “entered into a three-year contract with PlaneNoise for a total amount of $54,400,” said Ron Marisco, its assistant director of media relations. “The contract provides the Port Authority with software and a toll-free number and a web form link on our website to collect noise complaints.” This Grotell contract requires him to field complaints emanating from Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark Liberty, Stewart and Teterboro Airports.

Ms. Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition holds that collecting aircraft noise complaints “should be done in an unimpeachable fashion — by a disinterested third party.”

That would be fair and sensible.