East Hampton Asks for Help from Other Officials in Airport Fight

A small private plane taxis on the runway as a helicopter takes off overhead at the East Hampton Airport.

Now that the United States Supreme Court has refused to weigh in on East Hampton’s efforts to exercise local control over East Hampton Airport, the town board is trying a more grassroots approach. This week, the town announced it would ask members of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association to ask their federal representatives to intervene on its behalf.

The town is asking members of the association to request that Congressman Lee Zeldin and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand support an amendment to legislation currently pending in Congress that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. The amendment in question would give East Hampton Town the authority to control operations at the airport by imposing curfews and other measures to control noise.

The basis for the amendment is the town’s contention that in settling a 2005 lawsuit, the FAA gave the town authority over the airport, effective at the start of 2015, provided it did not accept any additional federal grant money for the facility. As part of that settlement, the FAA agreed the town would not be bound by the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 “in proposing new airport noise and access restrictions.”

The town has argued that it followed that settlement agreement, which had been confirmed by the FAA in a letter to former Congressman Tim Bishop, when it imposed curfews and attempted to limit access to aircraft that did not meet modern noise restrictions.

Those new regulations led a group of airport users to file suit, and last November, a federal appeals court in New York ruled against the town. A last-ditch effort to have the Supreme Court take up the case failed last month.

“The East End Supervisors and Mayors Association is designed to address issues of regional importance. Regaining local control of east Hampton Airport and allowing our local community to put in place common sense noise abatement measures is something the entire East End community supports,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a letter to the association. “We look forward to working with our federal elected officials to secure this vitally important legislative amendment.”

“The FAA reauthorization bill is the perfect opportunity to clarify the intent of the 2005 settlement agreement and establish once and for all that the Town of East Hampton has local control over their municipally-owned airport,” said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the board’s liaison to the airport. “We appreciate any and all efforts by our Congressional delegation to that end.”