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Sep 15, 2015 3:57 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town To Spend $1 Million On Airport Legal Fight In 2015 Alone

Sep 18, 2015 8:11 AM

The East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday increased to nearly $1 million the total amount of money it has dedicated this year to the legal fight over its management of East Hampton Airport.

With town officials heading to New York City on Wednesday to take part in a mediation session with an aviation industry group that has sued the town over airport restrictions, the board voted to increase the spending limit for its primary legal counsel in a half-dozen legal actions regarding the airport by $450,000, bring the total amount allocated to $875,000 for the year. The firm, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell, has already billed the town for $694,000 in legal work this year alone, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said on Tuesday.

The town has also alloted up to $100,000 for attorney Kathleen Sullivan, who is acting as the town’s legal counsel for the appeal of a federal injunction of a law adopted by the town that barred any single aircraft from making more than one takeoff and landing at the airport in a given week. Ms. Sullivan is also defending an appeal by the aviation group of two other laws setting curfews on the use of the airport.

The town spent approximately $226,000 on legal fees for airport issues in 2014.

The funding for the legal fees comes from the town's airport accounts, which are funded by airport operations fees, a step that the aviation groups have also raised issue with.

“While we anticipated that there would be lawsuits,” Mr. Burke-Gonzalez said at the Town Board work session on Tuesday morning, “it’s unfortunate that these airport users are forcing the town to spend airport funds to defend these restrictions rather than working cooperatively to help us achieve the best balance between users and residents.”

The town faces a federal lawsuit brought by a group representing and funded by aviation industry interests, the Friends of East Hampton Airport, as well as three separate cases brought by aviation companies or representatives claiming the town violated the requirements of past Federal Aviation Administration grants by enacting restrictions or raising fees, as well as a state court lawsuit brought by Sound Aircraft, the sole fuel supplier at East Hampton Airport, over increases in fuel and landing fees. Ms. Gonzalez said that the town has also petitioned to become a party to a lawsuit filed by the aviation industry group against the FAA.

Friends of the East Hampton Airport spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt countered Ms. Burke-Gonzalez's characterization of the various legal challenges.

"It¹s disappointing and frustrating to hear such claims, as many of the residents are in fact airport users too and we have always been open to talking about rational solutions," he said in a statement. "The truth is, if town leaders had invested in the upkeep and safety of the airport and not passed illegal bans, there would no need for any of this."

Also on Tuesday, board members reviewed reports on usage of the airport this summer. According to airport manager Jemille Charlton, the number of flights into and out of the airport increased by 14 percent overall in July—including a 20-percent jump in the number of helicopter flights—and by 7 percent in August, compared to 2014 levels. Through the end of July, the total usage of the airport had swelled by 29 percent.

Complaints about airplane noise received by the town in July were up 21 percent from 2014, Mr. Charlton said, though he noted that the actual number of households from where complaints were received actually declined by 6 percent that same month. For the year, thus far, complaints about aircraft noise are up nearly 60 percent, despite the curfews imposed this summer.

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more money wasted on airport. Leave the airport. It was here first. Use restrictions. The end. Take better care of the many EHT employees who grew up, live and want to continue living in our town. Drop the slackers, keep the hard working responsible workers. Run this town like the business it is. Pay raises for good workers, more hours for many willing to do their best. Civil service is not helping.
By Woods woman (145), East hampton on Sep 15, 15 11:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
$649,000 so far in legal fees-do the math. that is $72,000 per month, close to $2,500 daily since january. at $300 per hour , which is what these lawyers charge,translates to one lawyer working on this 5 days a week for all of 2015.this is simply impossible,especially considering their dismal results. maybe it is time for the anti-airport crowd to get their own attorney and stop wasting other taxpayers' money on their pet project. you have all winter ahead to work on it.

By wmdwjr (76), east hampton on Sep 16, 15 12:16 AM
Maybe it's time to close the airport and give summer back to the tax-payers and residents. Why let these out of town helicopter people and lawyers jerk us around?
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Sep 16, 15 12:44 AM
Let the 30 people who call the noise hotline non-stop to run up the fake complaint numbers (one admitted calling the hotline nearly 75,000 times) to get their greedy developer hands on the airport land pay for these attorney fees. Why is the town spending millions to help these 30 people, 3/4 of whom don't even live in EH? Why did Burke-Gonzalez just illegally divert $400k out of the airport's own revenues to pay more attorney fees, while refusing to perform critical safety related maintenance at ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 16, 15 1:36 AM
2 members liked this comment
Why not, it is just the taxpayer's money, why not two million or maybe three.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Sep 16, 15 6:22 AM
Perhaps some of the "30 people" who complain are in fact representatives of homeowner associations and or citizen advisory groups representing thousands of hard working homeowners who don't even live near the airport yet there lives have been negatively impacted by the greedy few helo operators who take thier fees back with them after they destroy the quiet use and enjoyment of our homes? Ever think about that?? Perhaps if we had your phone number we could release that to everyone in the flight ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Sep 16, 15 6:26 AM
2 members liked this comment
Nice threat. Once again you attack, harass, and intimidate anyone who opposes your group in order to silence any opposition and hide the truth that you are actually just a very small fringe group who represents no one but yourselves.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 16, 15 8:38 AM
Don't get out much, do ya? Noise impacts homes in East Hampton, Sagaponack, Southampton, North Sea, Noyac, North Haven, Shelter Island, Riverhead, Southold, Mattituck, Cutchogue, Montauk and probably many more locales. The complaint line is run by a company tied to helicopter interests. We should trust their numbers? Now who is representing nobody but themselves again?
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Sep 18, 15 1:59 PM
Thanks for proving my point above. Why can't you Quiet Skies people be civil? Your Facebook page is filled with your macabre schadenfreude every time a pilot dies or is injured within 100 miles of here, regardless of the fact that none were from HTO. You even attacked those who questioned your morality when you gloated over the death of poor Joe Milo from Westhampton. How can anyone take you seriously?
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 18, 15 7:46 PM
I complained once last year using an online link. Noise bothered me again this year, but I didn't call because I don't know the number to call...and assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that east hampton is trying to fix the situation. I live in bridgehampton north...and didn't even notice that I lived in the flight path of the airport until blade came around last summer.
By EIEIO (3), new york on Sep 16, 15 10:04 AM
The restrictions have not worked. If the current legal pursuit is continued, the town will spend untoward millions trying to establish that it can distinguish the rights of various categories of aircraft.

Why bother? Close it down. Once the commercial aviation interests realize that their aircraft will never land in EH town again, they will abandon their suits.

It's a shame that the airport employees and the innocent recreational pilots will be impacted but that's not the fault ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 18, 15 9:11 PM
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Sep 19, 15 8:04 AM
You know by now that closing the airport will change nothing. The town will NEVER be able to have any impact on aircraft in flight - it's not even a possibility. So the same helis will still fly right over your house heading to Montauk or SH heliport. The seaplanes will still fly over your house and land in the water in Sag and Shelter and Three Mile Harbor. The Jets will still do long low approaches over your house heading into Gabreski. NONE of what you are proposing will change how many aircraft ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 19, 15 11:13 AM
@localEH - we all know your stance by now.... Let's try to be productive.

In an ideal scenario, where the town was working directly with all types of residents (pilots and non-pilots, business owners etc.) how would you address the issue of noise that has been caused by the increased demand for commuter aircraft coming and going to EH airport?

Noise is a problem.
How would you seek curb the increased noise levels?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 22, 15 7:46 AM
me, but you don't see me demanding the town poison, cut, and firebomb all goldenrod plants in town limits. These unreasonable hyper-sensitive people should not be running the show.
2. Don't let people with a financial interest in the closure and development of the airport land be in charge. If they have said they want to develop the land, then they should be excluded from participating in any efforts to resolve the noise issue.
3. Take closure of the airport off the table - permanently. ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 22, 15 10:18 AM
1. Don't let the people at the extreme end of the bell curve on noise annoyance be in charge. Most of the people against the airport are hyper-sensitive to aircraft noise because they personally dislike aircraft. They are not even annoyed by cars, trucks, lawn mowers, loud music, boat engines, leaf blowers, church bells, barking dogs, etc. But if they hear even what vaugly sounds like an airplane in the distance they flip out. I am allergic to goldenrod pollen and it annoys
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 22, 15 10:18 AM
Right, but this was the question:

" how would you address the issue of noise that has been caused by the increased demand for commuter aircraft coming and going to EH airport? "

So what would you do about the noise? what steps would you take to improve the (noise) situation?

You've managed to use a lot of words to specifically not answer the question.

By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 22, 15 10:45 AM
As for the noise levels themselves, stop lumping all aircraft together. It appears commuter helicopters are the greatest annoyance, so I personally think limiting the number of commuter helicopter flights per day is a solution. But it needs to be a reasonable limit not the absurd thing proposed by the board (ex: two landings per day per tail number, restrict overall number of landings of commuter helis per day to certain number). Also working out more approach routes for helis would be useful. Funneling ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Sep 22, 15 10:47 AM
Too bad you did not wake up a couple of years ago, and ride the horse in the direction it was going!

To quote:

"so I personally think limiting the number of commuter helicopter flights per day is a solution"

"working out more approach routes for helis would be useful. Funneling them all into the November route is likely annoying for those under that route"

"Limiting the number of helis and jets over the 91db range is reasonable too"

"Plus charging them ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 22, 15 4:11 PM
to localEH:

Your post contains two facts that are actually true. First, that the town cannot control aircraft in flight, and, second, that seaplanes may continue to land in nearby waters. The rest of it is misdirection and outright falsehood.

All flight traffic to OTHER destinations will continue whether or not the EH airport is shuttered but ALL of the noise from EH flights will vanish the moment the airport is closed. Let's ask residents suffering under the current aerial ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 22, 15 9:17 AM
"Uva uvam vivendo varia fit."

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 22, 15 4:30 PM
Jake's reply to Gus, just before he spurred his horse out from underneath, thereby hanging himself:

"I never seen no line, Gus. I was just trying to get through the territory without gettin' scalped."

Gus: "I don't doubt that's true, Jake."

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 23, 15 7:08 AM
to PBR:

Metaphorically speaking, I am afraid that that is too much to hope for.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 23, 15 8:41 AM
Actually…leaf blowers really p**s me off. Maybe Local and I can start an activist group….right after we fix the airport. Local should have some time on his or her hands. I'll bring the benedryll.
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Sep 28, 15 1:17 PM
The traffic problem in the Hamptons has become unbearable. Routine waits of an hour from the Westhampton exit on the sunrise to Southampton. We are asking the towns of Southampton and East Hampton to institute 4 common sense regulations to address the issue. First, a mandatory curfew. 1) No vehicular traffic between the hours of 11pm and 7am. 2) One round trip per week for all vehicles with a gross weight of more than 6000 lbs. Vehicles weighing more than 6000 lbs. get poor gas mileage and pollute ...more
By JonathanSabin (6), on Oct 26, 15 7:22 PM