Editorials: Fighting choppers, the LIPA cable

It’s that time of year when we’re anticipating all the pleasures of summer, like long weekend afternoons lingering just a little longer at the beach before heading home to sit outside, welcoming peaceful dusks.

Or, another summer scenario: We become extras in “Apocalypse Now” with helicopters blasting so close overhead you can’t think straight and window glass is literally shaking. Too often government officials have bowed to the curious logic of the helicopter ferry companies who plead poverty as one reason they have to fly over land to save fuel and keep costs down. It’s to Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s credit that he has been a strong and feisty advocate protecting the peace of mind and quality of life for Islanders who have been buzzed by choppers.

The Multi-Town Helicopter Noise Advisory Committee (a name that could mean anything), a group composed of elected officials and airport executives, met last Friday in Sag Harbor to discuss the issue. Originally it was a “closed” meeting,” meaning no members of the public allowed, until the Reporter and the Sag Harbor Express asked, simply, what gives? Suddenly it was an “open” meeting, but only for a short time, before the meeting went into executive session, or one where the public is banned and the grownups can speak in peace without any bother. (This happens far too often.)

But again, credit goes to Mr. Dougherty who returned Friday to a Town Board meeting and discussed the meat of that meeting. This summer the drill will be that two-engine choppers, which cause the lions’ share of the racket, will fly east of the Island and high enough that the thunderous buzzing will be reduced. But the smaller helicopters, accounting for about 10 percent of the flights, will still track over the Island. (See story, page 15.)

Mr. Dougherty proudly pointed to a Town Board resolution going back five years banning helicopter landings and takeoffs except in emergencies. He wants that kind of ban for all East End towns, but he’s smart enough to know it won’t happen.

With perseverance and some fight, summer peace is still an option.

LIPA cable
Although being maybe a tad too self-congratulatory, the Town Board and LIPA patted each other on the back about the power pipeline project to run from Crescent Beach under the bay to the North Fork. (See story, page 1.) Words used at the work session Tuesday such as “pain,” “suffering” and “sacrifice” were used about being inconvenienced by at least six weeks of a serious construction project producing noise and traffic snafus.

But as Mr. Dougherty rightly pointed out it’s essential to get the deal done before July and August when the Island swells with people and electricity use soars. Blackouts in the summer will be a much more brutal consequence than a few weeks now of slowed traffic. And if there isn’t a reliable cable bringing power south to us during hurricane season, it won’t be brutal, it could be deadly. We’ll wait to congratulate town officials and LIPA, but commend their effort to get this essential project rolling now.