Judge to rule on chopper regs in coming weeks

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)

The Town of East Hampton has agreed to hold off implementing its historic airport restrictions to allow a federal judge to rule on a lawsuit challenging the new regulations.

U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert in Islip said Monday she’ll decide within three weeks whether the town can control access to its airport.

Last month the East Hampton Town Board passed legislation imposing a complete shut down of flights into or out of the airport from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and banned what it’s termed “noisy” aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. It also passed a town law limiting noisy aircraft to a single landing and takeoff each week during the summer season.

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The expectation was that the restrictions would be in place for the Memorial Day weekend.

But aviation interests, organized as “Friends of East Hampton Airport,” sued the town in federal court late last month on the basis of a restriction of free trade.

There was no comment from the FEHA on the agreement between the town and the court. East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell, in a statement, said the town had “agreed to the delay, feeling it was necessary to respect the judicial process.”

Kathleen Cunningham, co-chair of the East Hampton-based Quite Skies Coalition said Tuesday that the town had acted responsibly, but called for further vigilance from anti-noise activists.

“The town’s appropriate decision to allow the court three weeks to act will leave the aircraft noise affected with no protections over the Memorial Day weekend, which is a very big loss,” Ms. Cunningham said.  “This makes registering noise complaints on the town’s complaint line more important than ever.  That data supports the town in further action, once these court issues are resolved.”

The East Hampton Board voted to take control of its airport after years of aviation noise complaints from East End residents, including Shelter Island, which is in the path of commuter flights from Manhattan into and out of the Hamptons.

A complete ban on all helicopter operations on summer weekends from noon Thursday through noon Monday was originally proposed, though it eventually was scrapped 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.