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Officials demand FAA hold hearing on helicopters

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO
Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) speaking at a gathering November 28 in Jamesport of East End officials demanding action from the federal government on helicopter noise.

After a Federal Aviation Administration “workshop” held in Riverhead on November 14 left residents and elected officials alike dissatisfied, East End officials, including Councilman Jim Colligan, gathered at Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport on November 28 to demand the FAA hold a proper public hearing on the matter.

The earlier workshop, meant to allow residents an opportunity to file complaints over the spike in helicopters flying over East End residences, only allowed attendees to submit written statements.

“As elected officials standing up here, we know all too well what a public hearing is supposed to look like,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith at the Jamesport gathering. “The workshops [the FAA] held were more equivalent to a junior high school science fair or a child’s show and tell. The residents of the East End deserve so much more from this agency,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

In October, President Trump signed the bill that included an amendment proposed by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to require the FAA to hold public hearings on the issue.

First Congressional District Director Mark Woolley spoke on behalf of Mr. Zeldin, noting the congressman understands the concerns and is equally frustrated with the FAA.

“We understand what it means to have these helicopters and low-flying planes come right over your house — low enough that, if they wanted to, they could probably join the barbecue on a nice summer day,” Mr. Woolley said. “This is far from done.”

Together, the officials are calling for an all-water route requiring helicopters to fly over Long Island Sound one mile offshore and around Orient Point, entering and exiting East Hampton Airport.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) penned a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell to also demand a public hearing. “The intent of the legislation was crystal clear,” Mr. Schumer wrote in the letter, in which he voiced support for an all-water route around Orient Point.

After the meeting, Mr. Colligan told the Reporter he was in agreement with the other East End officials. “It is possible to require all-water routes, especially during favorable weather days, as well as to support two major curfews that the East Hampton Town Board wanted implemented two years ago,” Mr. Colligan said.

The councilman added he believed that an overwhelming majority of East End residents shouldn’t “have to suffer loss of quality of life because a very small minority can’t handle the traffic getting to their estates in the Hamptons.”

Jim Peters, a spokesperson for the FAA Eastern Region, said the public workshop format gives more people the opportunity to address their concerns as opposed to a traditional meeting.

“We believe this was the best opportunity to talk with people who are interested in finding out how things are going,” he said.

South Shore officials, including Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who both represent Shelter Island, spoke in support of the all-water route as well as checks on the East Hampton Airport.

“We need approval of reasonable restrictions on the [East Hampton airport,] whether it be curfews, whether it be restrictions on the number of flights, all those things that the Town of East Hampton was trying to do,” Mr. Thiele said. “This is nothing new, The FAA has ignored us.”

FAA officials have not indicated whether they will hold a public hearing, but comments can be submitted online or by mail to the FAA until January 2, 2019.

Here’s how:

* Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.

* Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

* Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

*Fax comments to Docket Operations at (202) 493-2251.

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