Lawsuit filed after East Hampton Town imposes aircraft restrictions

Less than 24 hours after the East Hampton Town Board approved a handful of long-awaited restrictions on flights into and out of its airport on April 16, opponents vowed to take legal action against the town.

On Tuesday, they made good on that promise. 

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport, along with a handful of other corporations, have filed a federal lawsuit claiming the East Hampton Town Board “transgressed the bounds of its extremely limited authority” by enacting the ban. The 34-page court document states board members disregarded federal law, which prohibits local governments from imposing aircraft noise or access restrictions.

“The Friends of East Hampton Airport remains steadfastly committed to preserving East Hampton Airport’s vitality and accessibility to the public,” the nonprofit organization’s spokesperson, Loren Riegelhaupt, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “It is deeply unfortunate that we were forced to sue to stop the Town’s actions. It is a course that we concluded we had no alternative but to pursue after months of trying, without success, to convince the Town to follow its obligations under federal aviation law.”

The unanimously approved ban the East Hampton board enacted bars flights into or out of the airport from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and outlaws so-called “noisy” aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. It also limits noisy aircraft to a single landing and takeoff each week during the summer season, according to the legislation.

In a statement released later on Tuesday afternoon, an attorney for East Hampton Town said the suit did not come as a surprise and that the town is fully prepared to fight the litigation.

Attorney Peter Kirsch of Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP said the federal law the plaintiffs point to in the suit no longer applies to East Hampton Airport.

“The complaint cites several federal laws and provisions of the U.S. Constitution but conveniently forgets what makes these restrictions unique,” Mr. Kirsch stated. “While we anticipated this lawsuit, it is sad that these airport users are now going to force the town to spend scarce airport funds to defend these restrictions rather than working to make this airport the best it can be.”

The ban is expected to go into effect by Memorial Day Weekend.

[email protected]