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Apr 7, 2015 11:44 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Pulls Back On Weekend Helicopter Ban

Apr 7, 2015 4:21 PM

The East Hampton Town Board will drop a proposed ban on all helicopters on summer weekends at East Hampton Airport, with board members agreeing that a ban could push air traffic to nearby facilities and create new problems there.

But the reversal may not change things all that much, as most helicopters would still be subject to limitations if the remaining three proposals dealing with restrictions on aircraft operations at the airport, some based on aircraft noise levels, are enacted. The board is expected to vote on those resolutions on Thursday, April 16.

During the board’s Tuesday work session, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who serves as the airport liaison, read a statement explaining the town’s decision.

“Based on preliminary conversations with our expert on traffic diversion, there is a real risk that an unintended consequence of a ban on helicopters on weekends in the summer could be a shift of the impacts to Montauk, as well as neighboring communities,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “I have long said that I will not push our problem on others, and I will respect that commitment.”

The ban on helicopter traffic had been proposed to address community concerns about noise from operations at the town-owned airport, especially on summer weekends. Much of the backlash of the ban has come from citizens groups like the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, who said that the small airport in Montauk is not equipped to deal with excess traffic that would be caused by a ban on helicopters at the East Hampton Airport.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley also expressed concern in recent weeks that the village heliport would not be able to handle an increase in landings during the summer months, calling the overflow a safety issue. Others were wary of spillover at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, saying that it could create a noise issue for residents in the flight paths in that area.

The East Hampton Town Board held a hearing last month on four resolutions designed to alleviate noise generated from the airport by restricting operations, mainly during the summer, when summer visitors fly in and out from Manhattan.

The remaining three proposed restrictions include a mandatory nighttime curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., an extended curfew for noisy aircraft between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., and a limit of one trip per week during the summer for aircraft classified as “noisy,” which includes most helicopters.

The town’s diversion study and environmental assessment regarding the proposed regulations will be discussed on Tuesday, April 14, at the Town Board’s work session.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said that, according to the town’s noise consultant, Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson, the one-trip limit, in conjunction with the two curfews, will affect 75 percent of helicopter operations and 73 percent of associated complaints on weekends and holidays during the summer season, as well as 23 percent of all aircraft operations, while addressing 60 percent of complaints on an annual basis.

“That is, in my mind, meaningful relief,” she said. “I want to stress that my intent is for these three laws to be part of a much larger package of actions, which I hope will bring both balance and civil dialogue to the problem of aircraft noise.”

As part of a newly conceived eight-point plan to tackle the issue from all angles, the Town Board would not only enact local laws, it also would appoint an airport management advisory committee, coordinate with federal helicopter rules, partner with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council on volunteer flight paths, work with the FAA on flight tracks and procedures, improve airport technology, study the effectiveness of the new laws, and make sure the airport is maintained and safe.

“We must recognize that our proposed laws are not the end of a process but the beginning of a long-term commitment to achieving—and maintaining—the right balance between airport operations and our community’s quality of life,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

Charles Ehren, the vice president of the Quiet Skies Coalition, applauded the Town Board for moving forward with its eight-point plan. At the same time, he urged the board to consider reviving the ban on helicopters, or enacting a similar regulation, since some helicopter companies could sidestep the proposed one-trip weekly limit by flying different helicopters in each time.

But Peter Wadsworth, who has been a key player in the noise debate for 12 years and serves on the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee, said the town’s plan is moving in the right direction, especially if it is paired with different forms of revenue streams for the airport. “Under no circumstances is this airport going to go out of business,” he said, seeking to allay the concerns of some in the aviation community.

Loren Riegelhaupt, the spokesman for the Friends of East Hampton Airport, representing several aviation businesses, said the regulations, even without the weekend helicopter ban, still would be a detriment. “Unfortunately, these ‘changes’ don’t change anything at all,” he said. “The proposal would close off the airport to the vast majority of traffic, resulting in a dramatic loss in revenue for the airport and economic activity for our community, and will do nothing to mitigate the obvious impact on neighboring communities across the East End.

“We remain committed to finding real solutions to addressing aircraft noise and welcome the town’s statement that they want to continue to partner with the aviation community,” he added

Wainscott School’s
Projections “Overestimated”

In September 2014, the Wainscott School Board, in response to the possibility of a new 49-unit affordable housing project on Stephen Hands Path, released a study projecting that the number of students would increase by 43 to 55 within the next 10 years if the housing project were to be built.

The town’s Planning Department, in its own study, said this week that roughly 38 students would be added to the Wainscott School District within the next 10 years if the project were to go forward—including 10 students who would have been added to the district anyway, based on enrollment trends.

Michael DeSario, the chairman of the Windmill Village board that is proposing the housing project, said that they’ve amended their plans to make it so that the project would generate fewer students, such as creating more one-bedroom apartments and designating a certain number of units to veterans, the disabled and the elderly.

Jet Ski Legislation Nixed

The East Hampton Town Board decided to table a proposed amendment to town code that would have allowed the launch of personal watercrafts from ramps around town to access to the bay more easily.

Currently, Jet Skis are not allowed in the harbors, but a few members of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee asked the town to change the law because it would greatly help them more safely and easily get to the bay while maintaining the required 5-mph speed limit.

Despite support from Ed Michels, the town’s chief harbormaster, the board decided not to move forward with the amendment, saying that not only was it was based on just two people’s requests, but that it caused more misunderstanding than it was worth.

“I haven’t received overwhelming support for this,” said Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc. “There’s nothing to make me decide to change the status quo.”

Booze Ban Returns

The Town Board will soon have a public hearing on the return of an alcohol ban at Amagansett’s Indian Wells Beach for this summer season. The ban would end September 30, this year. The law is exactly the same as last year’s, which banned alcohol within 1,000 feet east or west of the road ends during lifeguard hours, which are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on weekends and holidays until lifeguard protection for town beaches ends.

The Town Board will notice the law for public hearing later this week.

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So, the Supervisor of Southampton Town and the Mayor of that village decided to throw the citizens of the eastern part of Southampton Town under the bus.
The EH Town Board apparently decided to do likewise to the western portions of East Hampton town, in favor of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk (aka NIMBYS) where totally unconcerned about the remainder of the EH residents, as long they are not impacted. An action to be remembered for sure.
Politics as usual. Without the helicopter ...more
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Apr 7, 15 1:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree ... So what's stopping either East Hampton or Southampton towns from regulating the traffic at the other locations? ... Regional commitment to quiet skies would be a nice thing!
I live a couple of hundred feet from the edge of Shelter Island Sound, about 5.5 miles NW by N from the East Hamptons facility... right next to the current mandated helicopter route. The trouble is not only is sound greatly amplified over the water but that It's not unusual for the helicopters to break that ...more
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Apr 8, 15 7:58 AM
2 members liked this comment
So, the Supervisor of Southampton Town and the Mayor of that village decided to throw the citizens of the eastern part of Southampton Town under the bus.
The EH Town Board apparently decided to do likewise to the western portions of East Hampton town, in favor of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk (aka NIMBYS) where totally unconcerned about the remainder of the EH residents, as long they are not impacted. An action to be remembered for sure.
Politics as usual. Without the helicopter ...more
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Apr 7, 15 1:54 PM
The real problem is Choppers on the Course. 2 putts and you're out!
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Apr 7, 15 2:32 PM
This is a joke. The law is useless without the helicopter ban. So let Montauk and SH enact their own bans if the Board is so concerned about them. I am sure the folks at Blade are breaking out the champagne....
By wainscotter (18), wainscott on Apr 7, 15 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Divide and conquer. The Town of East Hampton has succumbed before the first actual strike. The threat from the helicopter community of moving to Montauk or West Hampton is just that, a threat. If these were viable alternatives wouldn’t they already be landing there? If this actually an alternative, isn’t it in the communities of Montauk and West Hampton best interest to join in with the Town of East Hampton? It is time for all East End Communities to join together and flex their ...more
By JasonAdams (1), on Apr 7, 15 3:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sad town board, just sad. Remove the crystal clear restriction and keep the ambiguous and tough to enforce ones. Maybe Cantwell is going to stand out on the tarmac and record each tail number? Get ready for another summer of hell.
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Apr 7, 15 5:51 PM
Bravo Anna! The unintended consequences is that Southampton will get the noisy helicopters while the quiet ones land in EH. Whack a mole anyone?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Apr 7, 15 6:10 PM
Our town officials, government, etc are corrupt and completely in the pockets of the wealthy. Time to leave Long Island. We are 30 years ahead of most of the country in the complete destruction of the society we once embraced. This has become the land of the 1%. The rest of us should just cut our losses and leave to look for the real America (if it still exists.)
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Apr 7, 15 7:39 PM
By kevinlocal (47), wainscott on Apr 7, 15 10:10 PM
2 members liked this comment
Money talks and Arnold walks. See ya
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 8, 15 12:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Money talks and bulls**t takes the bus
By kevinlocal (47), wainscott on Apr 8, 15 3:10 AM
Wow - pathetic!
By black beard (1), Noyac on Apr 7, 15 8:02 PM
This seems apropos today:

The Big Chill: How Big Money Is Buying Off Criticism of Big Money
Monday, April 6, 2015

Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of thecongregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.

He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthycongregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.

I had a similar exchange last ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 8, 15 7:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Another C&P portraying the wealthy in a bad light---YAAAAWN
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 8, 15 7:49 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 8, 15 4:35 PM
See if the owners of Gardiners Island are willing to put a helipad on the island. All copters must land there and then ferry the customers to the South Fork. The owners can determine the fees they collect. Copters must fly over the ocean or Long Island Sound before looping around the point to get to the Island. Problem solved.
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Apr 8, 15 11:48 AM
Lol. There we have it. Problem solved.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 9, 15 7:39 AM
Speaking of unintended consequences, two years and nine months ago today, Sister Jackie Walsh was mowed down and left to die on the side of the road on Rose Hill Road (also known as Sister Jackie's Way) in Water Mill, and the SHT PD waited 11 days to ask the public for help, when it belatedly released the alleged driver's ID and photo.

The "unintended (?) consequence" of this delay was that the driver was able to flee from the US and disappear in South America.

This coming July ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 9, 15 6:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Extremely disappointed. You were elected with a clear mandate to address the helicopter problem boldly and directly.You have failed us
This will be remembered next election day
By allyearhere (2), East hampton on Apr 13, 15 11:12 AM
What most commentators don't seen to understand is that Montauk does not have any legislative powers--it is a hamlet within the Town of East Hampton. In addition the Montauk Airport is privately owned and the Town lacks the power to regulate its operations. Moreover even if the Town purchased the Airport the existing FAA grant assurances would prevent the Town from banning helicopters. The reason the Town was concerned about imposing noise pollution on Montauk is the same reason you don't dump your ...more
By Percy (7), Montauk on Apr 17, 15 8:58 AM