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Jul 19, 2012 12:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

State Supreme Court Upholds East Hampton Town Airport Master Plan

Jul 24, 2012 6:17 PM

New York State Supreme Court has upheld East Hampton Town’s Airport Master Plan, dismissing a challenge from a group of neighbors who claimed that the planning document didn’t adequately address aircraft noise when the board updated it in September 2010.

The decision, which upheld both the master plan and the Airport Layout Plan that was adopted in September 2010, was lauded by the East Hampton Aviation Association in a press release last week. It comes after two decades of controversy and public hearings, according to the group’s statement. It also clears the way for the town to make runway repairs at the site.

“The Airport Master Plan and Layout Plan are now in full force and effect,” said Tom Twomey, a director of the East Hampton Aviation Association and a voluntary member of its legal committee. “It provides for the repair of the runway. Now, we urge the town to proceed with the repair of the runway without further delay.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion and six residents in November 2010. The plaintiffs in the suit include David Gruber, Barbara Miller, Frank Dalene, Robert Wolfram, Barbara Wolfram and Stephen Levine. Their lawsuit claimed that when the town studied the environmental impacts of its updated master plan, it skirted over the issue of noise. The environmental impact study, they claimed, ignored thousands of noise complaints and used faulty standards in concluding there was no significant noise issue at the airport.

Jeffrey Bragman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division Second Judicial Department.

“A fight’s not over in the first round,” he said. “We always anticipated that we were going to have further judicial review here.”

East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has spearheaded airport issues, praised the legal win.

“I’m just so happy about it,” he said. “I’m delighted. I’m proud of the work that the town and its team of advisors have done. They’ve just performed so professionally … The judge’s decision settles all the legal issues. I look forward to moving on the airport comprehensive plan and the Airport Master Plan and bringing a safe, secure and quieter airport for all of East Hampton.”

The East Hampton Airport Aviation Association also issued a statement last week on a poll it commissioned to take the public’s pulse on whether the town should accept Federal Aviation Administration funding for airport projects. Antinoise activists have argued that taking FAA funds come with grant assurances that restricts the town’s ability to regulate aircraft like noisy helicopters.

Three hundred people were polled by The Potholm Group of Maine in April, and 88 percent said they believe FAA funds should be used to repair existing runways and taxiways, according to the statement. Seventy-seven percent of people surveyed said they 
believe FAA funding should be used for noise abatement measures.

“I’m gratified that the results of the poll confirm my belief that a viable airport is in the public interest,” said Mr. Stanzione.

Kathy Cunningham, the chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition, said she hadn’t seen the results of the poll, but suggested that its answers might have depended on the way questions were asked.

“I would be interested to see the polling questions because I think that’s really relevant to how people answer these kinds of questions,” she said.

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This is not "the first round". Gruber and associates has sued the Town at least 5 times and the FAA once, and they've never won a single case though they caused the Town to incur a $million in legal fees and cost it many $millions in FAA funds that have been available for the asking for essential SAFETY repairs and improvements at the airport. The Town is lucky no serious accidents have occurred for which it would be held liable for failure to maintain facilities it's legally obligated to and about ...more
By Solusipse (8), Sagaponack on Jul 19, 12 2:42 PM
Really do not have an issue with the airport, "expanding" as it is hemmed in on all sides. What is really is the issue is the use of it with regards to residents surrounding it an din the flight path. The helicopters are ruining the quiet use and enjoyment of hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate for the sake of the few. The "tower" needs to have a proactive approach to managing noise.We call you know who they are, call them, and stop it! Should it not happen the people who are most affected ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jul 20, 12 6:26 AM
2 members liked this comment
How much money have these worthless lawsuits cost the town of EH...what, over 20 years now?
By MickNY (43), East Hampton on Jul 20, 12 9:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Gruber & Co have been at the airport for DECADES. They are zealots whose actual aim is not to abate noise (who ever heard of a quiet airport? Who would buy land next to an airport without expecting noise?). Their aim instead is to close the airport down completely; no matter how many times they lose in court, their strategy is to prolong every issue to the greatest extent possible and drain the town of funds. They used to complain about the jets--jets, by statute, have gotten quieter, as had ...more
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jul 20, 12 9:53 AM
2 members liked this comment
The six people against the airport should relocate, if they don't like living near
its location. The airport was there long before they resided in East Hampton
Town. Get over it, or move! Stop creating these lawsuits against the Town, and burdening the taxpayers with the cost of excessive litigation.
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 12 7:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
I'll venture that those same people have a stake in closing the airport. I recognize some names and they are developers. How ironic that they are using the environment to block funding when they would rather bulldoze the forests around the airport and put up polluting houses.
By Gene (4), East Hampton on Jul 25, 12 8:14 AM
Gruber keeps saying that the town through multiple administrations has done back room deals with the FAA. Fat chance of that happening. I dont know of one time in the past 30 years that the town board has not had at least one airport opponent on it, whether democrate or republican. Just how could that be accomplished without the consent of the entire town board even if a back room deal could be done? His argument is totally witout merit. Just what the courts have always decided.
By Gene (4), East Hampton on Jul 25, 12 8:24 AM