Town leaders continue to fight North Shore route despite FAA’s latest ruling

Local elected leaders say they aren’t giving up their fight against helicopter noise despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to reject Southold Town’s petition requesting that the controversial North Shore route be reconsidered.

The town argues in its petition that the agency did not give the public its right of notice and opportunity to be heard before extending the route to Aug. 6, 2020 and requested it mandate a South Shore route for flights to and from the South Fork.

When asked for comment on the decision, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell described the ruling as “perplexing, but not unexpected.”

“Unfortunately, what they’re saying is the public’s opinion doesn’t matter,” he said. “This is an agency that hasn’t listened to us for years.”

The agency found the town’s petition failed to “identify an immediate safety or security concern that would be resolved by eliminating the North Shore route and mandating the South Shore route,” according to the May 16 letter addressed to Mr. Russell from FAA deputy director of airspace services Gary Norek.

“Because your petition for rulemaking does not raise an immediate safety or security concern, the FAA finds that the actions requested in your petition cannot be addressed at this time due to other priorities and resource constraints in the agency,” Mr. Norek said.

The town has since forwarded the ruling to Congressman Lee Zeldin — a supporter of the town’s petition — for review, Mr. Russell said.

Riverhead Town, which also filed a similar petition a few months after Southold, is bracing for the same response from the FAA.

Riverhead Town Councilman Tim Hubbard, who is also the liaison to the town’s helicopter noise task force, described the agency’s ruling on Southold’s petition as “very disappointing and disheartening.”

“The people who live in the path of these flights are so frustrated,” he said. “They [the FAA] aren’t too interested in what we have to say. Any type of change needs to come from the federal level.”

Mr. Hubbard said the town has created a “helicopter noise complaints” section on its website’s homepage to provide residents with the latest information on how to file complaints.

“You can’t sit back and do nothing about it — each voice needs to be heard in the form of a complaint,” he added.

Mr. Russell acknowledged that requesting residents to file complaints may seem redundant or falling on deaf ears, however, he believes that’s the best way to document the quality of life concerns.

“The complaints have started early and they’re fast and furious,” Mr. Russell said. “I think the volume [of air traffic] is far more than what the North Fork can bear.”

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