‘Historic’ vote on aircraft noise scheduled in East Hampton

A helicopter at East Hampton Airport. (Credit: Kyril Bromley/The East Hampton Press, file)
A helicopter at East Hampton Airport. (Credit: Kyril Bromley/The East Hampton Press, file)

Half a loaf is better than none. In the case of four proposed East Hampton Airport restrictions, it’s three quarters of a loaf for anti-noise activists, but even that is disappointing.

That’s the response from Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quite Skies Coalition. Ms. Cunningham was responding to the news that, ahead of the East Hampton Town Board’s vote slated for Thursday, one of the four proposed restrictions to aircraft — banning all helicopter operations on summer weekends from noon Thursday through noon Monday — had been scrapped.

Still on the table for the board to consider Thursday, however, are imposing a mandatory nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on so-called “noisy” aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and limiting noisy aircraft to a single landing and takeoff each week during the summer season.

Ms. Cunningham said that although the most severe restriction has been removed from the vote “it doesn’t mean it’s gone away entirely. We know [the board] has it in their back pockets should they revisit it at a later date this summer.”

Ms. Cunningham characterized the vote as “historic. Nothing like this has ever been done in our town or even the country.” She praised the board for having the “political resolve to move forward with three of the four restrictions.”

The helicopter ban proposal was removed after strong opposition from elected officials from the North and South forks. The officials made strong cases that aircraft companies would simply divert flights into their communities.

Complaints about low-lying and extremely loud aircraft buzzing in and out of East Hampton has spurred strong protests for years, reaching a pinnacle last summer and fall.

According to airport records, from January to September 2014 there were 22,350 take offs and landings at the East Hampton Airport, and over the same time frame there were 22,700 complaints logged about excessive noise. About 15 percent of the complaints came from Shelter Island residents.

The East Hampton Town Board will meet at 159 Pantigo Road in East Hampton at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16.