New Group Calls For Closure Of Airport

A pair of jets on the tarmac at East Hampton Airport. Stephen J. Kotz photo

A new citizens group has joined the fray over the future of East Hampton Airport, calling for the closure of the airport for environmental reasons.

The group, which is calling itself the Coalition to Transform East Hampton Airport, said in the announcement of its formation that it’s goal is to educate residents about the environmental and noise impacts of the airport in hopes of swaying public opinion in favor of closing down the airport permanently.

“For the first time in two decades, the Town of East Hampton has the ability to ground the airport forever,” said Barry Raebeck, a Wainscott resident who is identified as the director of the new group. “We cannot afford to waste this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a major part of our community to something truly valuable that meaningfully serves our town for decades to come. And that is what this campaign will be about. Friends and neighbors united together to improve our community.”

Mr. Raebeck was also a founder of another anti-airport group, Say No To KHTO. The new group joins a public relations fray that pits it and the Say No group against two organizations advocating on behalf of pilots and against the consideration of closing the airport: the East Hampton Aviation Association and the East Hampton Community Alliance.

Town Board members are expected to decide later this year whether the airport should be closed permanently or possibly just temporarily to allow the town to adopt more stringent limits on airport traffic.

In a release sent out by the professional campaign strategy firm Tusk Strategies, the new coalition argues that the airport inflicts environmental pollution and erosion of quality of life on local residents, in the name of convenience of the wealthy.

“While some defend the airport’s existence, less than 1 percent of East Hampton residents and visitors use KHTO,” the announcement says. “Meanwhile not a single dollar of the airport’s revenue is dedicated to the benefit of East Hampton residents who own the airport.”