East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Restrictions

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David Gruber addressed the town board before they adopted three restrictions to mitigate noise from the East Hampton Airport. 

By Mara Certic

The East Hampton Town Board on Thursday night voted to adopt restrictions on traffic in and out of the East Hampton Airport, what many consider to be the first real attempt to muffle the noise in twenty years.

The vote to impose curfews and a restriction on touch-and-go operations was met by a standing ovation from some members of the audience who have spent the past few years fighting for a quieter airport.

The board voted unanimously to adopt both curfews; one mandates the current voluntary curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft and the other imposes a curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for “noisy” aircraft, these are aircraft with published Effective Perceived Noise in Decibel (EPNdB) ratings of 91 or higher. Councilman Fred Overton expressed some concern over the third restriction, which will limit the prohibit noisy aircraft from taking off and landing at the airport more than once per week during the summer.

“After reviewing the data, I do not believe [the issue] requires the restriction on two operations per week,” he said before placing the “nay” vote of the evening. He added that he felt the town should be implementing the rules incrementally, in order to make sure they address the actual problem at hand.

Supporters, opponents and skeptics addressed the board during the public portion prior to the vote. Members of the aviation committee, who have claimed the restrictions could damage the local economy, infuriate pilots and result in the eventual closure of the airport, took the opportunity once again to try to dissuade the board from going ahead with the new rules.

“It sounds like we’re about to rule on something that hasn’t been fully planned out,” said local pilot Bruno Schreck. Reggie Cornelia, vice-president of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee said that the plans were being “rushed through,” and that voting on Thursday night would be “hurtling up unnecessarily.”

But advocates for quieter skies said that the town has been anything but hasty in its decision-making. David Gruber, who sat on both the airport noise subcommittee and the budget and finance committee said that his two groups have met tirelessly, advising the boards with 13 sets of findings and no fewer than four professional studies, he said.

East Hampton resident Walker Bragman spoke to some of the claims of aviators that the inability to travel to the East End by helicopter on the weekend will deter people from coming here and in some cases, will force them to sell their homes.

“No it won’t. It absolutely won’t, this is the Hamptons,” he said. “And I think the weekend helicopter ban is a great idea, it should be strongly considered in the future.”

Jeremy Samuelson, of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, requested the town board confirm their plans to monitor the restrictions throughout the summer, so that “If there are unintended consequences, you have the ability to pull back the reins.”

“This is not a perfect solution,” Mr. Samuelson said. “First attempts to deal with problems of that magnitude rarely get the whole thing right, right out of the gate,” he said, adding that the three restrictions represented a “reasonable, well-measured proposal.”

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, released this statement almost immediately after the vote:

“While not surprising, the decision by the Town of East Hampton to implement these severe and illegal restrictions is certainly disappointing.”

“Rather than working together to find a balanced, reasonable approach, as they promised, the Town has passed restrictions that violate the law and result in dramatic loss in revenue for the airport and Town. We are now forced to consider legal action to remedy this unfortunate situation.

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