North Haven resident Bill Brauninger no longer keeps track of the helicopters that fly over his home for now it is the moments of quiet that are exceptions. Air traffic flying to the East Hampton Airport is so prevalent it is virtually constant.
“My patience has run out,” said an exasperated Brauninger at Tuesday night’s North Haven Village Board meeting.
Brauninger is not alone.
While Tuesday night’s meeting was largely centered around a discussion about tick abatement, many residents who crowded North Haven Village Hall joined Quiet Skies Coalition (QSC) members Bob Wolfram and Patricia Currie in a discussion about the noise impact the airport has had on residents in Southampton Town, particularly in North Haven, Noyac and Sag Harbor, portions of which are directly on helicopter flight paths to the airport.
Wolfram, a Sag Harbor resident, said that recently North Haven residents may have been given a break from some of the air traffic traditionally seen over the village. He charged that during a visit to the East Hampton Airport’s air traffic control tower in July – a visit he and Currie were encouraged to make by the town’s newly appointed air traffic control officers – he was told by the controllers that one of the two northern helicopter routes was eliminated by East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione.
According to Wolfram and Currie, a Noyac resident, the air traffic controllers said Stanzione told them to stop bringing in helicopters to the airport on a northern route that flies over Northwest Creek in East Hampton, but have all the helicopter traffic take the departing route aiming towards Jessup’s Neck in Noyac. That would direct almost all helicopter traffic over Southampton Town.
Wolfram and Currie said they were also surprised to learn the air traffic controllers were not given radar, but binoculars, to direct traffic in and out of the airport.
During an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 2, Councilman Stanzione denied ordering the Northwest Creek route closed to air traffic, stating while it had changed it was not at his order, but rather a decision made by airport officials.
According to data provided by PlaneNoise, a firm the town has hired to analyze noise complaints made to the town’s noise complaint hotline, 114 distinct households outside of East Hampton Town filed 1,498 complaints about noise from the airport in July. Sag Harbor represented the most complaints with 52 distinct households logging 1,120 complaints with the hotline, according to a report released this week by PlaneNoise.
According to the report, one Sag Harbor resident filed 561 complaints – the most by any one individual. The second highest number of complaints also came from a Sag Harbor resident, who filed 188 complaints in July.
According to PlaneNoise, the top 10 complainants – a majority from Sag Harbor – filed 77-percent of the complaints made to the airport hot line last month.
In East Hampton, 48 distinct homes filed 445 complaints with the noise hotline (537-LOUD). Residents from 33 households filed 353 complaints, with most of the complaints coming from residents who do not live in Wainscott or on the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, but from other areas within the town.
Unlike in the report detailing complaints outside of East Hampton Town, where 69 percent of the complaints were about helicopters, in East Hampton Town jets earned the highest number of complaints in July.
Last Thursday, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley sponsored two resolutions related to the airport, one specifically authorizing the town to send the PlaneNoise data to an outside consultant to recommend to the town board whether that information would justify the town considering a restriction of any kind on helicopter traffic.
The other resolution addresses airport security, specifically the installation of a perimeter security fence and making access to the airport allowable only through the terminal building.
Both resolutions passed by the Republican majority, with Democrats Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby voting against the measures.
During Tuesday night’s North Haven meeting, Currie said she was concerned about the second resolution since it could mean the town will seek more Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding than it originally sought for a deer fence late last year. QSC members contend that if the town abstains from taking FAA funding in 2014 it could potentially restrict certain aircraft like helicopters from flying into the airport or at least impose a curfew.
Wolfram said it was also incumbent on residents to use the noise complaint hotline. Otherwise, he said, the data will show only a few members of the community around the airport are really affected by noise.
North Haven trustee Jeff Sander said he “100-percent” supported any efforts made to reduce airport noise and limit expansion of the airport.
“I think this board would be happy to write letters to East Hampton and Southampton towns,” agreed trustee Diane Skilbred.
“This village has expressed concern and dissatisfaction at a public hearing about noise abatement and ingress and egress to the airport a couple of years ago,” said Mayor Laura Nolan. “I would be happy to update that letter to the East Hampton Town Board.”
In other airport related news, the Village Preservation Society of East Hampton will host an informational forum on aircraft noise at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street in East Hampton on Thursday, August 9 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. discussing the impacts of aircraft noise on human health and other relevant topics.